Nick Roumel begins culinary column for Legal News

By Frank Weir

Legal News

Growing up in a Greek family, Nick Roumel just naturally acquired an abiding interest in all things culinary.

Roumel, a partner in the Ann Arbor law firm of Nacht Roumel Salvatore Blanchard and Walker PC, joins John Kirkendall as a Legal News culinary columnist.

Roumel's column will appear each month on the fourth Thursday, while Kirkendall's will appear in the other three editions.

Roumel's first column is on page three of this edition.

"Growing up in a Greek household, there always was food around and people who were really interested in food," Roumel said last week.

"When I was an undergraduate at the U of M, I got a job at Victor's in the Campus Inn, which at that time was a high-end French restaurant with waiters in tuxedos and table-side cooking.

"I educated myself in cooking and wines with the help of a great staff.

"I waited tables there three years and went on to work in a number of other restaurants around town. In 1980 I briefly had my own catering business called "Gourmet Catering."

In recent years, Roumel taught Greek cooking classes through Ann Arbor Recreation and Education.

"I quickly discovered how hard it is to teach a cooking class. Not only do you have to know what you're doing, you have to talk about it while you're doing it and be entertaining at the same time," he said.

In those early years, Roumel worked in the now-gone Maude's, which employed several future local attorneys. And that makes sense since a co-owner of the restaurant was licensed attorney Leo Angelos.

"Leo didn't practice but he kept his law license up to date and he actually sponsored me when I was sworn into the bar," Roumel said.

He served as a bartender at Maude's and later at The Earle.

While working at the latter, Roumel arranged with his old friend Dave DeVarti to co-write "Punt/Counterpunt" for the U of M football program handed out on game Saturdays that DeVarti then published.

Eventually, Roumel ended up writing a food column for another of DeVarti's publications, Current, which continues today. His column appears every other month, sharing time with food blogger Olivia May.

In addition, about five years ago, Roumel interviewed local restaurateur Eve Aronoff for a column.

"I hadn't been involved with restaurants in some time concentrating on law practice and I thought it might be fun if I could just hang out at Eve's restaurant once a week and help out.

"She graciously agreed to let me do that and I was there for about six months every Wednesday doing whatever I could to help. I would help out in front, I'd help bus tables, work in the kitchen and I loved doing that.

"It felt great being involved again in restaurant work."

Through his association with Eve, Roumel met Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe who were just starting Cafe Selma, with Eve's involvement.

Cafe Selma is hosted by Lisa and Jeff at their home on Soule in Ann Arbor every Friday and features varying cooks and breakfast menus. Proceeds from the breakfasts are used to support local farms and food producers.

"I have cooked at Cafe Selma a couple of times including with my daughter who is a confirmed Vegan. I'll be doing it again in January. It is just a lot of fun and it's great to help support locally produced food and local food producers," he said.

Roumel's goal for his new Legal News column "is to provide a fun outlet for those in the legal profession, and a break from the usual adversary nature of our business.

"What binds us all? The love for good food! I want to talk about recipes, restaurant trends; I am planning features like what busy professionals eat, perhaps something like a 'what's in your fridge? feature, maybe even some focus on fitness lifestyles."

And Roumel definitely is not a "food snob."

"While I love new trends and experimentation for the occasional special event, I think most people enjoy more traditional dining and old favorites.

"I do strongly support the local food movement. I like to know where my food comes from and how it's processed. My butcher can tell me the name of the farm and the farmer he got his meat from (probably even the name of the cow).

"I have recently joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and bought a share so I'm excited about getting fresh vegetables year round.

"Café SELMA supports local farmers by helping them to finance and build 'hoop houses' for four-season growing. I like fresh, high quality ingredients and believe that makes a world of difference in the recipes we make.

"I also believe in healthy dining (including a lot of vegetarian and vegan options) so that I can feel less guilty about splurging over the holidays and for other special meals.

"I am officially what is called a 'flexitarian' which I think means primarily vegetarian but will occasionally eat meat, which as noted above I will eat if I'm comfortable about where it came from.

"But I am definitely not a food snob. My favorite food is French fries or any other kind of potato. I love chicken wings, coneys, and junky bar food of all types.

"I love travelling and eating the local and regional favorites. I think what people eat says a lot about their culture.

"And of course I love Greek food which I grew up with!"

And Roumel believes fervently in the local food scene.

"I am more excited about our local food scene in the last few years than I have been for a long time.

"New favorites that support local business and serve outstanding food include Grange, Beezy's and Corner Brewery in Ypsi, Terry B's in Dexter, the Glass House Café, and Frita Batido (Eve's new restaurant).

"Old mainstays like the West End Grill, Zingerman's, Evans Street Station in Tecumseh and the Common Grill just keep getting better.

"And our ethnic choices are impressive - especially some of our Thai and Japanese places - but we have a way to go in other ethnic areas - like upscale Greek!

"One thing Ann Arbor needs is its own regional specialty, like a Philly, Cincinnati Chili, Memphis BBQ, Chicago pizza, Northern Michigan pasties - what can ours be?"

Published: Mon, Dec 27, 2010