When you shop at Cooking Connection you are giving back to the community, says Holly del Rosario, owner of the recently opened unique cooking collaborative, and managing partner of Cookie Chicks in downtown Comstock Park. The “connection” in Cooking Connection is connection with the community. Steven Prevost has moved Joe’s Brother Coffee, his coffee roasting business, into the newly renovated space at 3979 West River Drive. Desmond Sunthang has opened a coffee bar he calls Eternal Coffee where he will be using Prevost’s roasted coffee in the coffee drinks he serves
del Rosario, who opened Cooking Chicks in 2015 in the back suite of the building, had already offered space to small food related start-ups for them to give their business a try. When the front of the building became available, she moved in and opened Cooking Connection which provides licensed food production and retail space to several small food businesses at once.
“This business model allows the businesses to work collaboratively in the common space, test the viability of their business and grow their brand without huge financial risk,” said del Rosario.
She said other small food-related businesses will be joining Prevost and Sunthang offering baked goods like artisan bread, fresh, prepared-to-order food and gifts, chef-prepared meals and catering. Customers will of course be able to purchase Cookie Chicks goodies. There is a small event space for meetings and events such as cooking classes. Prevost and Sunthang have already hosted a coffee tasting event. What all the businesses have in common is that they will be supporting causes important to them.
“One of the main pushes we will require of any of the small businesses joining us in the Cooking Connection is to have some identified and committed to philanthropic cause outside of their direct business” said Holly, who supports and employs the local special needs community.
Sunthang will serve up Joe’s Brother Coffees like Wonderland and Jaguar Honey in his drinks like Sumatra Bean Latte at the coffee bar. Customers will get to see the exact amount of beans of their choice being ground for their cup of coffee, which Sunthang says preserves the flavor and aroma. His cousin Paul Ce is a partner in the business.
Sunthang will be helping support the Burmese refugee community in West Michigan. Sunthang was an engineering student in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, when he came to the United States at the age of 18 as a refugee with his family. Because he knew English, he was able to work as an interpreter for Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids. He started freelance interpreting at places like Spectrum. He opened a “grab and go sushi” business at Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University. At Central he also worked at a non-profit coffee shop as a barista and became interested in specialty coffee. Sunthang said that in Myanmar, “3-in-one” coffee packets that contain instant coffee, sugar, and creamer are popular. “Black” coffee was a revelation to him when he came to West Michigan, and he has become passionate about serving only the best tasting coffee. He sold his sushi business to contrate on Eternal Coffee.
Prevost lost both his father and his brother to ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing loss of muscle control. He named his coffee roasting business after his brother Joe and works to raise awareness about ALS by supporting the Susan Mast ALS Foundation.
Prevost said he selects only premium coffees and roasts the beans using a unique hot air system known as Fluid Air Bed Roasting. Customers can purchase his coffee beans from various parts of the coffee growing world. Besides packages of coffee beans, he will have available single pot packages of ground coffee as well as single cup pods made from recyclable material. He is a graphic designer and website administrator for a business-to-business distribution and e-commerce company.
Dokl's Meat Market/Grill & Catering
When Hans Dokl opened Dokl’s Meat Market in 2017, part of his plan was to also open a restaurant someday. The plan became a reality when Dokl opened Dokl’s Grill & Catering next door to his popular meat market, 4615 W River Dr.in Comstock Park, a little over a month ago. He said business is good.
“Business has been better than expected, especially with opening during a pandemic,” said Dokl. “We had plans of opening a small restaurant since we opened the meat market, but the space was not available at that point. We always saw a need for a smaller place that serves breakfast and or lunch in this area.”
The menu features specialty sandwiches and burgers, house made soups, salads, and daily specials. Dokl is originally from Austria where he trained to be a certified chef, and he offers Austrian and German food like the Wiener Schnitzel Sandwich, the Bratwurst Sandwich, and Hungarian Gulasch Suppe. Sides include sauerkraut and Austrian potato salad, as well as fries. He offers take-out and catering. In the meat market there is fresh beef, pork, and chicken as well as house made brats, kielbasa, and other sausages. There’s stuffed chicken on occasion and fresh fish, as well as convenience items. He doesn’t serve breakfast at this time in the grill, but customers can get muffins and sweet breads, made by Dokl’s wife Donna, to have with their coffee.
“We plan on serving breakfast starting early summer when we are able to have seating outside and hopefully the pandemic is somewhat under control,” he said adding, “All items we sell and serve are local to Michigan.
The Grill has a clean, modern feel with grey walls, black tables, and black chairs with wood backs. Dokl said he wants people to “feel at home when they enter either business.” There are four employees. Dokl’s wife Donna, who is the director of hospitality at the Railside Golf Club in Byron Center, did all the decorating.
“She just did it with items she liked,” said Dokl. “When we decided to move forward with the Grill, we wanted to decorate with old Comstock Park pictures, but after we contacted local historians and life-long Comstock Park residents, and did research at the Library, we were not able to find enough pictures of good quality. Maybe down the road there will be someone coming forward with pictures for us to use or duplicate.”
After completing his chef’s training, Dokl worked at hotels and restaurants in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland before moving to Michigan in 1987 to work as a chef at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. He lived on the Island during the summer and worked as a chef in a variety of states during the winter before moving to the Grand Rapids area to take the position of executive chef and director of food service at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Dokl and his wife, who is from Comstock Park, live in Comstock Park. They have a son, 14, who is a freshman at Comstock Park High School and helps at the grill and market, and a son, 22, who works full time at the meat market. When they aren’t working, which Dokl says is seldom, the family enjoys boating, camping, and fishing.