In February of 2007 Marty and Jennie Atkins will celebrate two years in existence. Not bad for a fine dining restaurant who’s reputation is built around perfection and patience.
In a city where dining establishments come and go on a fairly regular basis, BIN 151 has carved out a niche in an area where fate has met a few poor folks early in their business plans. Their outlook pertaining to the restaurant speaks volumes, and the fact they have a bit of foresight is admirable in of itself. To have chatted with both on a cool and nasty Wednesday night in November, the pair were more than accommodating, preparing a wide assortment of fantastic dishes for me to try.
I’ve got to say, the food was unbelievable. From the middle plates portion of the menu I had a beautiful salad made of heirloom baby beets, seared chevre, walnuts and finished with honey vinaigrette. After savoring those flavors I dug right into the BBQ pork and king mushroom spring rolls. The thai chili sauce that accompanied it set my palate off.
I considered the next dish to shine a little brighter than the others. The duck and mushroom gyozas offered some truly complex flavors. The heat in the hoisin broth didn’t conflict in any way with the other ingredients in the dishâ€¦truly wonderful. Last was a generous sized piece of naan bread fried with mushrooms and melted brie. By the end of the meal I felt completely at ease, able to walk but totally fulfilled. Amazing!
The restaurant works on an idea that what they provide their customers is enough to keep them coming in. Both have business on their minds and both have the drive to watch it all unfold in front of them. And it has unfolded, tenfold. Marty took cooking very serious from an early age. While working for his family at their hotel at an early age of 12, he didn’t really consider food a path until 2 years later. His education is something of a ‘how’d he do that’ kind of story.
At 17 he enrolled in the culinary program at St. Clair College only to graduate from the apprenticeship program two years later with a 4.0 GPA and received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the government of Ontario all while working as full time sous chef.
He landed a position in the then prestigious Joseph’s. While working as chef de cuisine and pursuing a degree at Wayne State in Nutrition and Food Science, Marty began to see a path clearing itself in front of him. After doing 2 years at Joseph’s he took on what would be one of the biggest challenges of his career. For 3 years he worked for a heavyweight in the food service industry, Sodexho. While providing his skills as retail manager as well as an area trainer in their cafeteria division, Marty played a key role in transforming the way the company prepared their menu and oversaw the nutritional aspect to the food being served.
All of these years of experience led him to his most passionate involvement to date. BIN 151 opened on February 3rd, 2005 and if you’ve ever been and haven’t taken the time to walk just past the bar and look to the east, then you’ve missed some of the best written reviews a restaurant has been deserving enough to receive. The couple took the existing design of the building and transformed it into a cool, calm setting. The lighting is dim; the music on this night was cafÃ© jazz, and the rain outside made for a very relaxing evening. And no one should expect an ‘in and out’ diner. These people pride themselves on the food and beverage being done right, and if that means time, so be it. Marty took it upon himself to make sure there was a chef’s table to provide a more intimate, insightful food experience. Walking past the kitchen and up a flight of stairs you’re seated at a table big enough to accommodate 10. The view is impressive.
Overlooking the entire kitchen the customer is treated to, literally, poetry in motion. The kitchen staff goes about their business in near silence.
“I’ve had people book the chef’s table and after a little while say to me ‘I was expecting something more like Ramsay (referring to Gordon Ramsay from Kitchen Nightmares fame), well that’s not what happens here,” says Marty.
His team has been with him for sometime now, with the exception of his latest addition, Max Liang, who works the cold station and desserts. I was given a bit of insight into his hiring process.”Jennie and I have developed a 45 minute interview process that let’s us determine if the person in question could work as part of the team,” explains Marty.
It says a lot about the staff he’s got today. Scott Wilson, Lauren Wysman, and Ken Zulian, who’ve all been with him for some time now, and Max round out his kitchen staff with Marty working all 16 burners. Upfront one of his bartenders, Bev Carnahan, is studying to become a sommelier. With this type of talent and the dedication he and his wife show day in and day out, it’s hard not to appreciate the total package.
It’s nice to see a couple of things setting them apart from other fine dining venues in the city. They offer one of the few, if not the only, corking fees in the city. At $15.15, (fitting enough as that is their address on Ottawa Street) one can bring their own bottle of wine to enjoy with their meal. Marty has also designated Tuesdays as Flight Night. For a very reasonable price the patron has their choice of a wide assortment of tapas for under $10. A Featured Flight means that you pay a modest price to be at the mercy of the wine experts behind the bar. Consider it a guided tour of amazing wines and spectacular food.
I felt I learned something while spending some time at BIN 151. Food, when total care and attention to detail are the main priority, can be grounds for a successful business. I was honored to be given this chance to gain insight into one of the city’s most skilled chefs and what makes him see food as more than just a means to financial freedom but as flavors coming together to wow the senses.
Here’ s a peek at what Chef Marty Atkins keeps in his pantry: Cheese, red/white wine, vinegars, sambal, rice noodles, hoison sauce, chili paste, extra virgin olive oil, and kosher salt.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie writes for pure enjoyment. He has had articles in publications throughout Windsor/Essex County. While music and photography are his passions, food ranks a close fourth to alcohol. A self described carnivore and self admitted traveler, he spends his days carving meat and thinking about writing.