Release Date: 
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Michigan Chefs de Cuisine names two-time HFC alumnus Chef of the Year

Image of Frank Turchan II wearing his chef's jacket and a charcoal background.

The Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association recently honored two-time HFC alumnus Chef Frank Turchan II with the prestigious title of Chef of the Year for 2023. He also earned recognition as a 2023 Cutting Edge Award Nominee, highlighting his commitment to pushing the boundaries of culinary artistry.

Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association Chapter President James Kokenyesdi nominated Turchan, who lives in Dearborn with Stacey, his wife of 26 years, and their two daughters. Since 2007, Turchan has served as the Campus Executive Chef for the University of Michigan Dining Services in Ann Arbor.

“Being recognized by one of the most prestigious chapters in the country is truly a high honor,” said Turchan. “It’s pretty humbling and exciting to be recognized by my peers for all the work I’ve done in the culinary industry. I’m thankful for my friends, family, and mentors who have supported me throughout. This is not an easy career, but it is an enjoyable career.”

In April, Turchan will participate in the ACF’s regional competition at the Culinary Institute of Michigan in Port Huron.

“It’s a cooking competition,” said Turchan. “We have to select a protein and we have an hour to cook one plate that will serve six people. Each level of competition gets harder. The winner will go to the national conference in Phoenix.”

“I truly believe HFC got me on the right path and I am very grateful for that”

Born in Dearborn, Turchan is the youngest of four and an alumnus of Dearborn High School. Upon graduation, Turchan enrolled in HFC (then Henry Ford College), where he graduated with two associate degrees. His first was in hotel/restaurant management, and his second was in culinary arts. He was one of the founding members of the HFC Ice Carving Club. His mentor was retired HFC Chef Richard Teeple.

“I attended HFC because my parents wanted to make sure that I was on the right path,” he said. “It was close to home, and the in-district tuition helped significantly. The teachers were personable and taught me a lot. It was an amazing experience overall.”

Turchan completed additional coursework at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. He also earned another associate degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

“HFC prepared me academically and professionally 100%! They taught me about professionalism, gave me an understanding and a purpose,” he explained. “I went to New York to prove myself to the world, but it was HFC that set me up for success and boosted my career. I truly believe HFC got me on the right path, and I am very grateful for that.”

Enjoys cooking for people, one of his passions

Turchan has been in the food industry for more than 30 years. He got his start when he was 15, making pizzas for Little Caesars on Outer Drive in Dearborn.

“Living in the Detroit area for so many years, I’ve seen plenty of strikes and layoffs and economic downturns. I knew I didn’t want to be out of work. I knew I could cook anywhere I wanted in the world,” he explained. “I have a passion for cooking. It’s like throwing a party every day. I like taking care of guests and cooking for people.”

Turchan honed his skills in the kitchens of New York City, Chicago, and Detroit, acclimating to the diverse influences and techniques each city had to offer. He also worked at Mary Denning’s Cake Shoppe in Westland. Denning is a retired HFC culinary arts instructor. This gave him a stronger background in pastries and prepared him for his education in New York City.

Prior to U-M, Turchan served as the executive chef at the Fairlane Club in Dearborn and the Ford Motor Company Conference & Event Center. These experiences have collectively shaped his culinary philosophy, emphasizing the beauty of simple food, letting the ingredients shine to create uniquely memorable dining experiences.

A deep appreciation for the beauty of simple food

At U-M, he not only oversees the culinary operations of 20 chefs engaged in campus dining but also imparts his culinary wisdom through specialized training sessions and one-on-one mentoring. He oversees the culinary program for 10 residential halls and 20 retail locations.

“We serve about 4 million meals per year,” he said.

His role extends to supervising all MDining kitchens, ensuring a consistent standard of excellence across the board. Turchan has also developed culinary training programs for staff at the U-M Union and teaches American Culinary Federation (ACF) certification courses, so chefs can get certified annually.

“I started a Global Chef Series, where I bring in chefs from all around the world to U-M to let our students experience their cuisine,” he said. “I enjoy working with students and learning about the new generation of students. Every year has its new set of challenges. I also enjoy working with and developing my staff. I’m also trying to find my successor.”

Champion for sustainable food sourcing in Michigan

Turchan is a passionate advocate for sustainable food sourcing. Under his guidance, U-M became the first Big Ten university to achieve Marine Stewardship Council Certification. His commitment to supporting local farmers has resulted in an expansion of the university's local food buying strategies, providing the U-M community with an abundance of fresh, Michigan-sourced produce.

“I’m a big supporter of the State of Michigan and the food produced here,” said Turchan. “Michigan is No. 2 behind California for varietal produce. We may not be considered an agricultural state, but we have so much varietal produce here. A good percentage of food is produced and sourced here. We have a great relationship with Michigan farmers. I’m all for supporting Michigan and being a good steward.”

HFC Chef Eric Gackenbach is proud of Turchan’s accomplishments.

“Frank is well-liked by all because of his calm demeanor and high level of skill and professionalism,” said Gackenbach. “He served on our advisory committee for a number of years and has contributed directly to the Culinary Arts + Hospitality Management Programs at HFC.”

Each day is a new challenge for Turchan, which he welcomes.

“It’s instant gratification; we’re always making someone’s day by providing them with a good meal,” he said. “Everyone has to eat. We celebrate our highs and lows over food. We can have conversations about diversity over a platter of food from different regions. Food brings people together.”

VIDEO: "Frank the Modern Day Forager" Tiny Talk by Chef Frank Turchan II