"Fine dining with a casual spin." That’s how Head Chef Rick Bruggeman describes his creations of meat, sauces, and sides at Patrick’s Grille in Michigan City.
The restaurant has been open less than two years, yet with the family-like staff and dedication to creating signature classics for their customers, it’s as if we’ve known Patrick and his team for years.
Restaurant owner Patrick Williams hired Bruggeman right from the start, bringing him to the restaurant from his position at a local country club. Bruggeman’s entire life has been intertwined with the restaurant business, starting as a busboy at the age of 14. Now, as the head chef of a new restaurant, Bruggeman’s passion for working in the food industry has aged well over time.
The business is always changing and Bruggeman is keeping up easily after years of schooling and training at the Washburne Trade School for culinary arts and at the Culinary Institute of America. He, now 56, moved his wife and two kids to Chesterton in 1984 from Chicago. He’s worked at the famous German restaurant Zum Deutschen Eck and The Spa.
As the head chef at Patrick’s Grille, his main duties are running the kitchen, ordering ingredients, training the staff, and of course, working the line designing and creating the specials and dinners.
“Basically, everything in the back of the house,” he said.
The restaurant has been reviewed as having the signature dishes – burgers, fish, pasta, soups, and salads – but with a unique twist.
“We have really good quality steaks,” he said. “I would put our steaks up against anyone else in town.”
The restaurant also ships in fresh daily seafood and recently added the growing popular baby-back-ribs menu item. Appetizers include fresh oysters and large shrimp cocktails.
“We have dishes starting at $16 that goes all the way up to $30. We have burgers and street tacos - it’s a wide variety,” he said. “We sell a lot of lake perch. You know it is still the Midwest, so we sell a lot of lake perch.”
One big seller is the flaming saganaki appetizer, the restaurant’s tribute to the former restaurant, Rodini’s owner Larry Fegaras. Bruggeman has been in the business for a long time, but what he loves about it is the constantly changing ennvironment.
“There’s always instant gratification,” he said. “I love creating and making something in my name, making a classic dish and putting my own twist on it.”
For Bruggeman, adding in the new, no-recipe made sauce for a dish, is one of his favorite meals to make.
“I love making something you have never tasted before,” he said. “There is no recipe; it just needs a little bit of that or just needs a little bit of that.”
The hardest part of creating meals is creating tastes and combinations he thinks everyone will enjoy. With the daily specials, Bruggeman has full control of what the day’s appetizers will be, soup of the day, and how the fish is served.
“People want their food done right and the biggest challenge is trying to please everybody. I mean, your medium-rare may not be the same medium -rare as mine. That’s hard,” he explained.
With his evenings at the restaurant, Bruggeman has his mornings free, which means for him, walking with his wife and dog on the shores of Lake Michigan.
“Everything is going good. The food scene in Michigan City is really good,” he said.
For more information on Patricks' Grille, or to try Chef Rick's modern delicacies, stop in at 4125 Franklin St. in Michigan City or visit them online at www.patricksgrille.com/.