“Eat Local, Feel Global” is one catchy way to attract customers to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Other appealing qualities include exquisite dining made from locally grown ingredients and some of the finest wines. The restaurant that offers all of this and more is JW Marriott’s signature restaurant, Six.one.six. With their own JW Chef’s garden and over 29 local farmers and producers, Six.one.six provides especially fresh and extremely stylish dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Executive chef, Chef Christian Madsen oversees the restaurant and the hotel’s other venues, including the destination lounge, Mixology, in-room dining and catering services for one of the largest meeting venues in the region. With a cooking career spanning over two decades, it was an honor speaking to Chef Madsen who graciously answered my questions about his locally grown ingredients and successful restaurant.
AH: When did you know that you wanted to become a chef?
CM: I knew at a young age that I wanted to become a chef. At age sixteen I knew. I went to college as an English Literature major, and then it really dawned on me.
AH: What local produce items are being used in your dishes currently?
CM: Our focus here is on local. We have local, kale, carrots, beets, heirloom tomatoes, blueberries and corn. We also have our own garden for herbs, at least for when weather permits. We get our meats local as well, such as lamb, chicken and pork. We use a lot of local when we can, we are also very Michigan centric and orientated.
AH: In a place that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, how are you able to give your own flare to the dishes?
CM: What we really do is look at the overall menu and then put a spin on it. We look at flavors and colors, which is what I like to do. We use either a different presentation or unexpected ingredients to keep it appealing.
AH: What is your favorite dish that is currently using local ingredients?
CM: A fried green tomato dish, it is a southern classic with a spin. There are new changes with the presentation and a few different ingredients.
AH: As you include seasonal produce in your menu, how often do you change your regular menu items?
CM: We make changes to our menu about 4-6 times a year. There are big changes with the seasons and then about two smaller changes. Especially in the summer we made a lot of changes and it will be changing again at the end of October once fall rolls around.
AH: How does it make you different as a chef that along with the restaurant you also oversee the hotel’s other venues: the destination lounge, Mixology, in-room dinning and catering services?
CM: It gives me more responsibility and makes me wear different hats. I am focused on the banquet and then the restaurant and the lounge. I have to switch gears from different times of the day. I bounce around a lot and switch gears quickly. You have to be very flexible.
AH: What makes your menu/restaurant unique?
CM: The luxury we have by being at the J.W plus using local produce. We have a lot of approaches with twists. We have a lot of experiences and perspectives. Where I come from a restaurant which received Michigan’s first and only five-diamond status and other chefs coming in from other restaurants, we all have different perspectives that make us unique.