Matt Prentice, the veteran chef from the Detroit metropolitan area who once ran more than a dozen restaurants, died after a brief illness.
He was 62 years old.
Prentice died early Thursday morning from complications from a recent surgery, her sister, Megan Kler, said.
Prentice was best known for the former Unique Restaurant Corp., which was the driving force behind many greater Detroit area restaurants, including the former Coach Insignia on top of the Renaissance Center (now Highlands), Deli Unique, Duet, Shiraz , Morels, Northern Lakes Seafood and many more. The restaurant group was later renamed Matt Prentice Restaurant Group.
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Prentice graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and was a native of Detroiter. He is known for starting the careers of many chefs in the Detroit metropolitan area.
Most recently, Prentice partnered with Mary Liz Curtin of the popular Leon and Lulu in Clawson, opening the Three Cats Cafe in the adjoining fashion retailer’s theater next door.
“There are so many cooks in this city that they started in one of their kitchens,” said Mary Liz Curtin of Leon & Lulu. “He was a wonderful teacher and was very generous with his time, skills and everything.”
The restaurant opened in the fall of 2019 after a court-ordered, five-year non-compete agreement that Prentice had with a former restaurant group employer expired.
“There is a huge empty space in Three Cats. Matt was a big man with a huge heart, a strong laugh, and a generous spirit. He was a wonderful teacher, a great mentor, and an amazing cook. We all at Three Cats thank you and we are proud to be a Matt Prentice restaurant. We will always serve your favorite recipes and there will always be mushrooms on the menu, ”Curtin said.
Prentice was also best known for his charitable work, including working closely with Cass Community Social Services and the Rev. Faith Fowler, a Detroit-based nonprofit that provides housing, food, health services, and job training. . Prentice, according to a press release announcing his death, created the CASS kitchen, which serves more than 700,000 meals a year.
“Matt taught our staff to cook from scratch. He taught me to recognize hospitality and practice generosity,” said Reverend Fowler. “We are heartbroken by this news and will always be grateful to Matt for his friendship and talent.”
While Prentice was known for his restaurant businesses and among chefs, it was his charitable work that he held the highest regard for.
“He loved his work with CASS and that was one of the most important things he has done,” Kler said.
Prentice became a prominent figure on the Detroit metropolitan area food scene when he started his restaurant group in the 1980s. HI’s restaurants, which ranged from fine dining to various delis, were often praised by the press, gaining Rave reviews from food writers.
Decades later, Prentice began closing some of the restaurants. In 2008-2009, Prentice and his restaurant group went through tough times, Kler said. According to Free Press reports, there was a “disorderly series of trade deals, lawsuits and personal consequences for the deli operator who had become one of the region’s leading restaurateurs in the intervening years.”
Prentice later sold the company to Stanley Dickson Jr., who formed the Epicurean group.
A service is being planned for a later date at CASS, Kler said.
Prentice is survived by his four children, a grandson, his sister, four brothers, and numerous nieces and nephews.
The Three Cats kitchen will be in charge of Drew Cayuela and Alex Matoin. The chefs, Curtin said, share Prentice’s “profile of spirit, generosity and flavor that will keep us in a Matt Prentice restaurant.”
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and submit food and restaurant news at: 313-222-6872 or [email protected] Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.
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