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Art & Soul - The Culinary Arts: Talking To The Owners Of Spencer Restaurant In Ann Arbor

Nov 2, 2017

Spencer owners Abby Olitzky (right) and Steve Hall (left)
Credit Lisa Barry

It’s the culinary arts and food that is (almost) too pretty to eat in this week’s "Art and Soul."  Lisa Barry is joined by food expert and host of WEMU’s “The In Crowd,” Jessica Webster, to talk about the 2nd anniversary of Ann Arbor restaurant Spencer with owners Abby Olitzky and Steve Hall.


The two owners describe their restaurant in opposite terms, each crediting the other’s specialty for the success.

Olitzky, the chef, describes it as “a wine bar that serves seasonal food that is meant to be shared.  We’re counter service with communal seating. It’s a casual environment with the best food we can be cooking.”

Hall, who runs the wine program says it’s “a seasonal restaurant with the best food you’ve ever had in your life, and, coincidentally, we also serve wine.”

They both agree that how the food is presented is an art form.  The food should be able to speak for itself without distraction, adding that they cook and present the food in a way that keeps it true to where it came from.

One of the dishes at Spencer
Credit Spencer

“There is this idea of mindfulness while plating in that everything needs to feel as organic as the thing you are presenting,” says Olitsky, who adds “that is one of the hardest things to train people is how we plate things and how we want it to feel like it’s magical on the plate.”

Olitsky adds she once had a chef tell her, "‘I almost want it to look as if angels dropped it.’  Like it’s going to placed how it is because it is going to be perfect in its imperfections.”

Corn Fritters from Spencer
Credit Spencer

Two years is no small accomplishment for a young restaurant.  Olitzky says that it has been a learning process, but they have kept true to their message about making good food that they are passionate about.  Hall, an Ann Arbor native, says that the city has helped the restaurant evolve.

“We’re a pretty small restaurant, so the first year we were really just trying to figure out exactly who we were, the second year we were just trying to build on that and get people to know who we are because we don’t advertise, we don’t have a sign, so to have done so well the first two years and for people to know who we are now and really be recognized in the community has been the best part,” Hall says.

Hall says to come for the culinary art, but stay for the minimalist atmosphere.

“It’s a small cozy spot.  You’ll be surrounded by friends on a Monday night same as on a Friday night,” Hall says.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu