Thursday, 29 March 2018 14:09

Fusion: More Than a Concept: The early beginnings of fusion in West Michigan

Written by  Dominique Tomlin
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Georgina’s Dish Georgina’s Dish Photo: Jackie Kartsimas

To some, fusion food means combining elements from different culinary traditions into one dish. To others, it’s a way of life.

Fuego means “fire” in Spanish, which perfectly describes Chef Joaquin Acamapichtli’s passion toward food and spicy ingredients. Fuego: A Fusion Kitchen is located on West Main Street in Grant, although it’s easy to miss if you’re just passing through.

With Fuego, Acamapichtli created his “dream concept” of a menu, featuring tostadas, tacos, sushitto, sushi, jambalaya and more.

“Fuego became the fusion kitchen when I knew I would go nuts being stuck to one style of cuisine,” Acamapichtli said. “I was lucky that I grew up with a mother that subscribed to lots of different food magazines. She would always try new recipes, so I was not only raised on Mexican food but a variety of cuisine.”

The menu offers an abundance of choices, including seasonal options. One recommendation is the Al Pacino Maki, which Acamapichtli said fuses traditional, Hawaiian and Culichi styles of sushi while also catering to the tastebuds of the locals in a meat-and-potatoes town. The roll combines steak, cream cheese, tempura, asparagus and carrots on the inside, then is topped with tempura, spinach and eel sauce.

Meanwhile, down in Grand Rapids, Georgina’s on Wealthy Street is the new spot serving up Latin and Asian fusion, named after chef and owner Anthony Craig’s cousin. You may recognize the name from Traverse City, where Craig (a.k.a. Chef Tony) first launched the concept.

Georgina’s has a great atmosphere with loud music and a large bar in the center, but it’s not about the bar — even if Craig’s sangria is the best we’ve ever had.

“We try to focus on being a restaurant with a bar, not a bar that serves food,” General Manager Evan Bankey said. “Food is the highlight of our business and it makes us who we are.”

Since food is the highlight, it only makes sense that the menu offers more than 70 food options.

We recommend the mini sombrero, one of the several selections on the list of appetizers. The mini sombrero has tostones, which are twice-fried plantains, and are topped with pork, cheese, beans, salsa and sour cream.
The pork adds the perfect amount of saltiness to the dish, and the fresh salsa balances it all out.

To Craig, this menu isn’t some concept he created one day — it’s his life. He is Cuban, Nicaraguan and Chinese, and these cultures shine through in his food.

“People always ask how I came up with this, but I didn’t come up with this,” Craig said. “This isn’t a theme. It’s not a gimmick. It’s just me.”

Craig wants to provide more than just food and drink, but an entire experience.

“You’re going to enjoy the food, but you’re also going to enjoy who you’re sharing it with,” Craig said. “That’s what my food does.”

Although alcohol isn’t the main focus at Georgina’s, Craig and Bankey both believe that it adds to the guest’s experience.

“Someone is going to want to have a glass of wine or a beer with their meal, and you can’t take away from that,” Craig said. “I experience cultures. Drinking is a part of a culture, and what I’m showing you is an experience.”

Both of these fusion restaurants came from passionate chefs with diverse culinary backgrounds who just wanted the locals to have a little taste of the cuisines they have to offer.

Fusion food, which once shocked cultures, has now become a way to breach a culinary gap between those cultures.

“Food is an emotion. It always goes back to how you feel,” Craig said. “The majority of the people who come here have never had this food in their life. Come here to experience an emotion.”

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