Antietam to fight on today

Nov 28, 2014 at 9:15 am

It's a second chance of sorts for Antietam, the eatery that opened to rave reviews in early July. After a few weeks this summer, the place suddenly closed, allegedly to work out some kinks.

That closure is something local media have been reluctant to comment upon, and something the management of Antietam has been cagey about.

According to one local website, the closure was "due to the departure of its chef and bartender." 

Does that seem an odd way to describe the closure of a restaurant? It seems oddly inert to say the people running the bar and the kitchen decided to, um, not work there anymore.

Much livelier was the gossip we heard from a service worker at a local tavern, who told us that practically the whole staff decided to quit, leaving the restaurant deserted.

Given these widely varying stories, we emailed owner Gregory Holm, with whom we've been on speaking terms in the past. We asked him about the reality. Beyond saying that his restaurant was not deserted, he was uncommunicative. One might call his reply to a number of questions intentionally cryptic. We asked some former confreres of his about him, and they told us only that they were not his friends anymore and refused to comment on the Antietam matter.  

That's why we were hardly surprised to see that Antietam's official publicity is now handled by a professional PR company, which officially announced that "Antietam Restaurant Detroit will be re-opening its doors" today, on Black Friday, "with a brand-new team in place combined of local talent and newly implanted national veterans of the industry." The new staff comes from New York, where Holm has worked as a photographer, and is "headed by Executive Chef Brion Wong, who ... worked under Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli at her Butter restaurant" along with new beverage director "Albert DePompeis, who has experience working closely with Celebrity Chef Todd English and such notable eateries as New York City's Chalk Point Kitchen and Kutshers Tribeca." 

It's notable that the new chef and bar director are being brought in from another city. Whatever really happened this July, it's doubtful that these new hires have heard much of it, or that Holm seems to have a way of upsetting the people he works closely with.

As supporters of the dining scene in Detroit, we'd like to see him succeed. Everybody deserves a second chance, and we hope Holm has had an opportunity to learn how to cultivate a work atmosphere that's loyal and produces excellence.

That said, Detroit is a mighty small world when it comes to the fine dining scene. And as the old adage about small worlds goes, "Be nice to people while you're on the way up, so they'll be nice to you when you're on the way down." 

Frankly, it's good advice for anybody.