A Conversation with Eve Aronoff

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Eve Aronoff. Eve is the Chef/Owner of Frita Batidos, but she has been a part of the Ann Arbor food scene for over 20 years. I have eaten at Frita Batidos many times over the past decade, and I always wondered what prompted Eve to bring such a different style of food to Ann Arbor.

Eve was born in upstate New York but grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. Over the years, she spent a lot of time visiting extended family in New York City and Miami. She also lived in Israel for some time as a child.

Throughout her childhood, Eve learned about the ties between emotion and food from the women in her family. She said that her mother would always make a favorite dish for her and her brother at large meals, identifying that as a way her mother demonstrated her love.

Eve showed an early interest in cooking, so much so that her mother got her the New York Times International Cookbook for her when she was in the 5th grade. She learned a great deal about cooking from that source. Eventually, Eve began creating multi-course meals for her parents and their friends.

She continued to expand her knowledge of international cuisines during her teenage years. She spent a good deal of time visiting her maternal grandmother in Miami. Eve even recounted a particular visit when she was exploring Little Havana, absorbing the spirit of the culture there and lost track of time. The day got away from her and her grandmother called the police to pick her up and take her home.

Eve’s parents encouraged her to take chances when she left for college and were very supportive of her following her interests and passions. Her father advised her to be open to different experiences and see what she enjoyed the most. Although he was suggesting visiting museums and lectures, Eve took a different route. While she was studying Comparative Literature and learning about different cultures at Brandeis University, she also worked in a neighborhood Italian restaurant and even sold hotdogs outside Fenway Park.

After continuing to cook through her college years, Eve returned to Michigan and decided to settle in Ann Arbor. Over the years, she has cooked in many kitchens, including The Common Grill, The Redhawk, The Gandy Dancer, and Monahan’s. The variety of venues provided her with exposure to many different aspects of cooking.

In 1998, Eve continued her adventures by enrolling in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She chose Paris because she believed it to be the source of traditional cooking. It was while she was there, learning the classical French cuisine, that she was exposed to the big flavors and earthy spices of the cuisines of North Africa. These cuisines added to the previous influences of Cuban and other Latino cuisines and challenged Eve to develop her own style. She built on the foundation of balanced harmony of the French and elevated it with the bold elements of North African, Cuban, and Afro-Caribbean flavors, aromas, and textures.

Eve worked as a caterer in Paris after finishing her program at Le Cordon Bleu, before returning to Ann Arbor. She continued cooking in restaurants and event venues while working toward her ultimate goal of having her own restaurant. She achieved that goal in 2004 by opening Eve, in Kerrytown. The menu at Eve reflected Eve’s style, pairing modern American food with global inspiration.

Eve closed at the beginning of January of 2011, and that coincided with the opening of Frita Batidos. When she talks about her current venture, it is easy to see the pride and love Eve has for the restaurant and the staff. Eve mentioned the longevity of the majority of the staff members, stating that the “new guy” who is one of the managers started working about two weeks after the opening. The camaraderie of this work family has allowed them to flourish and share their love of food with their clientele. Ultimately, it proves something that Eve told me at the beginning of our conversation, “If you focus on making something special, the other things fall into place.”

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