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Marlin Kaplan

Since 1993, chef Marlin Kaplan has opened five Cleveland restaurants and closed three. Ten years after launching the elegant One Walnut downtown, the native New Yorker is celebrating the first anniversary of Luxe, a quirky and relaxed Detroit Shoreway spot that is this year’s best new restaurant.
Interview by Beth Stallings
Back in the late ’80s, I was a senior vice president at an advertising agency in New York. I was 35-ish, and I needed a different career. So I talked my way into some kitchens.

It was a total fluke. I walked into a kitchen, and I filled out an application for a job I had no business doing, but the chef gave me a chance. I didn’t know one end of a frying pan from another.

One of the first things I learned is if you want to learn how to peel potatoes, you don’t ask the chef how to do it. You ask the dishwasher. He’ll show you the best way.

Being in the business world, you could work on a project for months and, in the end, it may never get done. You share ideas, and the client may decide it’s not something they want.

In a kitchen, you come in, you cook the meals, you clean up, and you go home. It’s a very satisfying thing that in an eight-hour stretch you’ve done something.

I love making pizza. It reminds me of New York.

There’s no real trick. You just need to keep enough flour in the dough. And it needs to be fresh dough. And you need to work on the dough to make it the right consistency. That’s what’s really going to make a difference.

I opened my first restaurant, Marlin, in 1993. Opening a restaurant was not a part of the plan. I wanted to cook, but I hadn’t really thought about running my own place.

Check back May 1 for the complete story.


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