The Arboreal Inn Chef Jason Fettes Interview

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Date: January 5, 2021

Nestled in the woods along 174th Avenue, The Arboreal Inn has been a classic Spring Lake, Michigan fine dining establishment for over 40 years, delighting generations with its cuisine, atmosphere and elegance. The new Arboreal Inn is a fantastic mixture of classic and contemporary.  They have a renewed sense of purpose: to become THE fine dining destination location in all of West Michigan and beyond.

The Arboreal Inn has renewed its commitment to providing the outstanding service you deserve. You’ll dine at your own pace and become enamored with the magic of the experience as you realize that the Arboreal Inn is not just a restaurant, it’s a destination.

Q&A WITH THE ARBOREAL INN CHEF, JASON FETTES

Spring Lake, MI

Talk about your journey of how you have become the Chef at Arboreal Inn? I am a native of Buffalo (Go Bills!) who decided to venture up to Mackinac Island back in 2004 to work under my cousin, Chef Keith Lynch, at Goodfellows restaurant. He is now owner and executive chef of Vernales Restaurant in Harbor Springs. He and I are very close, and he took me under his wing for the years I worked for him. I continued working on the island for a few years before moving back to Buffalo, NY with Jillianne, my now wife. Once Jillianne and I decided to start a family, my father and mother in law wanted to figure out a way for us to move back to Michigan and closer to Jillianne’s hometown of Holland. This is when her parents, Don and Karen Weersing, decided to purchase The Arboreal Inn in Spring Lake when it was up for sale in 2012. At that time, it had been closed for a few months. Jillianne and I moved back to run the restaurant with her managing the front of the house and with me in charge of the back of the house. We re-opened the restaurant in early 2013 and the rest is history!

With a long history as a well-known fine dining restaurant, what challenges have you faced since re-opening in 2013? The restaurant had a loyal following of both locals and customers from out of town over the years. Our goal was to continue these relationships and the biggest challenge was updating and renovating the restaurant. It had become run down and we had to reestablish to our customers what it once was. This took a combination of changes with the restaurant, including updating the interior and enhancing the menu, while still maintaining the atmosphere and food that people had come to know. Over the past seven years, we have worked very hard to create The Arboreal Inn as a destination again and I think we have done that.

With the pandemic hitting us hard in the restaurant industry, what are some of the challenges that you have had to work through? One of the biggest things was how we connected with our customers. Before 2020, most of our interactions with our customers were in person when they visited the restaurant. This became much more difficult when we had the shutdown in the spring and the most recent one this fall. We have had to rely on social media and our website to get the word out about any updates or changes that we have made during this crazy year. My wife manages the marketing aspect of our business and I think that what we have learned will help us in the future.

As far as food goes, we have had to get creative and try different things like family packages and take & bake meals. We also had to change how we do our take-out meals to help ensure the safety of our patrons and the quality of the food we are serving. One positive of how we have had to do business is we are able to prepare orders as they come in. This has helped reduce prep time and waste while making sure the meals that go out are as fresh as possible.

How would you explain the partnership with Superior Foods and your sales rep, Paul Tucker? Well, I have known Paul for 15+ years since my days working on Mackinac Island. Our relationship has grown over the years to the point where we both completely trust one another. I can trust that Paul is looking out for our best interest and if we have any issues with any products, Paul is able to trust my judgement as well. We have an open dialogue that is very helpful when it comes to figuring out new menu options or resolving any issues. Paul is also very proactive when it comes to talking through any challenges or updates with supplier products.

What is the one thing that makes cooking a passion for you? I take pride in seeing the satisfaction of customers. I feel responsible for providing great meals to everyone who dines with us. Being able to see customers enjoy their meal and leave the restaurant with a smile is what drives me.

The Arboreal Inn | Fine Dining Restaurant in Spring Lake Michigan

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