Photo: Salwan Georges/Detroit Free Press

Meet Detroit Free Press Restaurant Critic Mark Kurlyandchik


As we head into the third month of coverage of the Top 10 Takeover, a series of restaurant takeovers highlighting the top ten new restaurants in metro Detroit, we thought it would be a good time to take pause and get to know the new Detroit Free Press restaurant critic, Mark Kurlyandchik.

Kurlyandchik has been spearheading the curation of the Takeover since accepting his role at the Detroit Free Press in February, but he started writing about food much earlier than that.

“I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember,” Kurlyandchik shared in an interview.
“My mom still has a box of my old short stories from elementary school. Food began to enter the equation in my late teens, when I realized that I could potentially make a living from constructing sentences through journalism.”

His first foray into food writing came from a blog he created dedicated to the intersection of food and music.

“My first post was about the elusiveness of umami and how it related to creativity,” Kurlyandchik said. “Another post reviewed a Queens of the Stone Age record as if it were a bar and restaurant.”

From there, Kurlyandchik grew his culinary repertoire at Hour Detroit magazine where he was a senior editor for four years. From there, he spent time at various other places across the country, gaining new experiences along the way. With a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley and a beefed-up resume, Kurlyandchik headed back to Michigan to begin his new role as Detroit Free Press’ restaurant critic.

“It’s an honor to have this job, period,” Kurlyandchik said, “but I feel doubly lucky to fill this position during this specific moment in the city’s culinary evolution, which has made some pretty big leaps in just a few short years. On the whole, metro Detroit diners are considered pretty conservative and that’s a challenge for restaurants who might want to try new things that push the envelope. That’s beginning to change, though, as foodie culture goes mainstream and our interconnectedness allows trends from the rest of the world to reach us much faster than before.”

Given his strong background and passion for food and food writing, you might wonder what Kurlyandchik looks for in a good restaurant or dining experience.

“The ‘type’ of restaurant is far less important than all these other variables that affect the overall experience of dining out,” he said. “A great meal has a certain je ne sais quoi – a combination of food, atmosphere, service, company, spirit. There’s a poetry to it. But it demands a level of hospitality that predicts your wants and needs before you know your own wants and needs. That can come from a gas-station lunch counter or a white-linen restaurant with a prix-fixe tasting menu … In short: My favorite restaurants are the ones that make you feel better about your life.”

We have two more stops on the Top 10 Takeover this year. Next up is Standby in Detroit. You can get caught up on our previous coverage of the Top 10 Takeover below: