Mia & Grace Restaurant Makes Their Mark in MuskegonBy Jane Whitttington on June 5th, 2015 /
First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes a fabulous restaurant in Muskegon, MI. At least, that’s the way the story goes for Jamie and Jeremy Paquin. However, they met far from Michigan—in Austin, Texas. Jeremy was originally from Michigan but moved to Texas as a child and was working there as a chef. Jamie hails from New Orleans but lived and went to school in Houston. They were both in Austin at a food and wine fair where Jeremy was featured as one of the top 50 chefs in Texas. They met, fell in love, married and continued their careers in Texas.
Jamie says, “On our second date, Jeremy said, ‘Someday, we’re going to move to Michigan and open a restaurant.’ I never thought I would leave Texas, but when we decided to start a family, we decided together that we would move here, close to many of Jeremy’s family members. His family has a long history in the restaurant business, and Jeremy has been cooking since he was 12. I had a completely different background. In fact, I worked in the corporate world at Enron. When that business imploded, I decided that my second career would be as a chef.”
She continues, “I went to culinary school in Houston and then studied under Monica Pope, the number one female chef in Texas. I couldn’t have found a better place to learn.”
When they moved to Michigan, they looked throughout the area for the perfect spot for their new venture. In Muskegon, they found an empty building which had once been a restaurant but had been vacant for ten or eleven years. Jamie remembers sitting across the street, looking at the dilapidated building and wondering if they could make it work. The short answer: yes, they could.
Upstairs from the restaurant were five apartments, which were the first thing the Paquins renovated. They combined two for their own living space and rented out the others to raise money for their new venture. They slowly worked on turning the old restaurant into their dream space. Sweat equity from family members and the couple themselves helped keep costs down.
Their daughter Mia and Jeremy’s grandmother Grace inspired the name of the new restaurant, and Mia and Grace opened in 2007.
They knew from the beginning that they would rely on area farms for the ingredients for their dishes. “Farm to table” means fresh, local and made from scratch, and this was their philosophy from the first day. In fact, Jamie says, “Everything here is homemade; we make our own ketchup, our own crackers, bread—everything. We even make almost all of our own cheeses. In that respect, we are unique for this area.”
They’re open five days a week, from Tuesday through Saturday, from nine to five every day. A look at their menu (http://miaandgrace.com/full-menu) is tempting enough, but the real thing exceeds expectations. They change the menu according to what is available from local sources. Jamie reveals that they even take to the woods themselves to search for elusive morel mushrooms to add to their spring menu.
Mia and Grace is humming with activity as appreciative diners fill the space. After five, when the restaurant closes, the Paquins stay busy with catering for special events. Jamie also provides lunch for three local schools (lucky kids!), Mercy Hospital and a couple of other venues. Busy as they are, they have found the time and energy to open a pizza place right next door. Whistle Punk provides the same farm to table, all homemade food for which Mia and Grace is known. They hope that the success of Whistle Punk could lead to opening other sister pizza restaurants in the area. Whistle Punk is open from five to 10.
No lesser an expert on good food than Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are the best people.”
If you’re one of those, Mia and Grace will make you very happy.