Exclusive: The Epicurean Group in Detroit and Big Red Orchards Combine Operations, Forming a True Farm-to-table Enterprise

Big Red Orchard and Farm is one of the companies participating in a farm-to-table partnership with The Epicurean Group in Detroit. // Photograph Courtesy of Big Red Orchard and Farm

In what may be the first authentic farm-to-table enterprise in the region, The Epicurean Group in Detroit that includes the Novi Chophouse in Novi and the Nomad Grill in Southfield, today announced a major expansion into Macomb County with the addition of Big Red Orchard and Farm, Beef and Jeff’s Meatery and Smokehouse, and Big Red Hard Cider.

The new additions to the restaurant and catering company are located in Washington Township, and combined cover 30 acres of sustainable farming. Over the next few months, The Epicurean Group will be introducing new seasonal farm-to-table offerings created by the respective culinary teams.

The Epicurean Group also owns and operates Soul Café in West Bloomfield Township, Plaza Deli Catering and Food Truck in Southfield, and Epic Café in Troy’s Michigan Design Center.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, will increase The Epicurean Group’s staff to more than 700 employees at the height of the season. Ryan Moore, a financial expert and principal of Conlan Abu, owns Big Red Orchard and its related operations. The deal closed on January 1, 2019.

As part of the transaction, Stanley B. Dickson Jr., former owner and acting CEO, will assume the title of chairman of The Epicurean Group. Daily operations and strategic leadership will remain the focus of current president, Eric Djordjevic, who has held the post since 2011. New to the organizational structure is Moore, who was appointed CEO.

“We are enthusiastic about the future of The Epicurean Group and Ryan’s collaboration in it,” says Dickson. “With our shared values and culture, we are steadfast in delivering an exciting, value-driven, dining experience to our guests.”

Big Red Orchard traces its roots to 1878. More recently, the company introduced three flavors of Big Red Hard Cider, which it will expand to the Epicurean restaurants in addition to looking for growth opportunities through Michigan and beyond. The company’s ciders are pasteurized.

The farm also plans to offer protein selections in the future, including meats, poultry, and fish. Big Red Orchards has multiple relationships with Michigan-based farms, dairies, and organic operations that it will tap as necessary for the restaurants.

In addition, an upcoming 3,000-square-foot indoor vertical farming operation will allow Big Red to grow produce throughout the year, meaning consumers will have access to vegetables and related foods during the winter. “Once that’s operational in the coming months, we can grow what we need for the whole year,” says Djordjevic. “Our culinary team is really excited, and it will be one of the first time consumers in our region will be able to enjoy produce that is actually grown in the winter.”

As new seasonal menus are developed, diners can learn where and when various selections were grown and harvested. The new offerings will also be expanded to the company’s catering offerings that include weddings and corporate events.

“Diversification translates into growth and Michigan is at the hub of both; I sought out opportunities that created symbiotic relationships, not only on the business front but for the Michigan consumer base, as well,” says Moore, whose wife, Amanda, will join the combined entity as chief business officer and chief risk officer. “Now each restaurant becomes its own ecosystem.

“We believe that by controlling every aspect of production to distribution, both the idea of a family farm expanding its scope and a restaurant group getting to its roots, we will decentralize the food supply and provide transparency into one’s food and beverage.”

In addition, The Epicurean Group announced it is currently researching opportunities to reestablish its presence in downtown Detroit, either by opening a restaurant, aligning with a hotel group, or taking over an operating enterprise. The company formerly operated Coach Insignia, which is in the process of opening as another restaurant by a different operator.

Additionally, Epicurean Catering and Events has several on-site hotel and event center catering contracts, off premise catering capabilities, and a separate Kosher operation serving both meat and dairy menus.