EXP|DET contributing editor Kate Lazarski sat down with Lea and Kyle Hunt to talk about Detroit, food, and their growing business (and family)!
The Hunts win the award for Detroit’s cutest couple and are absolutely crushing the restaurant business with Gather in Eastern Market. The secret ingredient might just be a pinch of love.
KL: How did you two meet?
LEA: We both grew up in the same city and are high school sweethearts! After school we did some exploring and lived in Los Angeles and Chicago. No matter how much we moved around, we were always drawn back to our roots in Detroit. When we came back, we connected with industry leaders to gain knowledge and a firm understanding on how to open a restaurant. We worked like crazy to save up enough money while we planned our concept for Gather.
KL: What sparked the idea to open a restaurant and how did you find the perfect chef?
L&K: We grew up with a huge passion for serving people. We both found so much joy working at coffee shops and restaurants. It’s such a basic human need to eat, but honestly, it’s so delightful to us. We both love to keep busy and work with our hands and the hospitality industry lends to all of these things. The industry is such a close-knit community and we were able to find an amazing chef that knew how to make our vision a reality. We make everything from scratch and it’s all sourced locally.
KL: Why did you open in Eastern Market and what are some of your favorite parts about the neighborhood?
LEA: When we started looking for a space we didn’t have a specific area in mind but knew it had to be in Detroit. We stumbled upon the Gratiot location and couldn’t pass it up! The property owner loved our story and concept. We knew it was a great match.
KYLE: Eastern Market has been very welcoming. We feel a part of the neighborhood and a community of like minded people. A lot of our regulars are residents that live behind us. We work closely with the farmers through Grow Eastern Market which makes sourcing quality ingredients simple.
KL: What inspired Collect?
L&K: When we moved in we knew at some point we wanted to do something with the second floor. We just didn’t know exactly what but we knew it needed to have a relaxing ‘hang out’ vibe. We threw around a couple of ideas and came to conclusion that we both love beer and the space would be a perfect spot to hang and grab a beer. We have a huge variety of beer on tap.
KL: What are your favorite things on the menu at Gather and Collect?
KYLE: Umami Fries at Gather and the Bellwood Sour Jelly King at Collect.
LEA: The Bahn Mi Pork Belly Sandwich at Gather is delicious! Typically, my go to is a cold Urbanrest IPA at Collect but these days I opt for the Urbanrest kombucha on tap.
KL: What are some of your local mainstays?
KYLE: We go to Red Hook Coffee in West Village every day. We’re usually siting outside with our golden retriever, Noah.
LEA: Pekin Express on Jefferson is the best Chinese food. The baby loves it! Also, Taqueria el Rey in Southwest is always a win.
KL: I feel like there’s always a buzz around the cool pop-up events you guys host in the winter. How did it start?
L&K: Winters in Michigan can be rough so to keep things exciting we host a winter guest chef series. It’s on Monday nights throughout the season. Our kitchen rotates chefs with a curated a set menu for that evening. We typically don’t host too many pop-ups in summer since it’s our busy patio season, but we’re always open to collaborate with creatives.
KL: You’re one of the few restaurants in the city with communal tables. Have your guests been receptive to the concept?
KYLE: It’s been really great! People were hesitant at first but now they are catching on and are more welcoming to the idea. It’s always amazing to see two groups connect and share food with total strangers. One time we had two ladies and two guys come in separately and ended up on a double date because the conversation was so great. Detroit is so unique in the sense that everyone knows one another. People always come in and see someone they know. It feels good to be able to create that atmosphere.
“It’s always amazing to see two groups connect and share food with total strangers. “
KL: Spill on the expansion plans!
LEA: We just got the keys to our newest venture downtown, Huddle! It’s a soft serve custard joint with a tiny walk-up window tucked right behind the Shinola Hotel. We’re going to always have chocolate, vanilla, and twist on tap and will incorporate a rotating flavor that you’ll have the option to twist with vanilla. We’re sourcing the dairy locally with Detroit creamery CF Berger.
KYLE: This new endeavor hits close to home for me because my dad fixes ice cream machines and as kid I would help him clean up ice cream parlors after the busy season. Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time around ice cream.