Pete Boothroyd’s Centre Street Cafe in Traverse City is kind of a gourmet diner. Everything is scratch-cooking, everything is inventive and delicious, but also everything is approachable and comfortable. Food for all. So, who better to take on our assignment of designing fresh takes on the ultimate comfort food: cheesy potatoes for the holidays.

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Pete Boothroyd came to cooking the long way around. Consider the steps. He studied psychology in college. He graduated and worked in a lumberyard. Then he landed a job with a nutritional supplements store. You may not think of “nutritional supplements” and “delicious” all in the same sentence, but it was there Boothroyd’s journey to chefdom started to take shape. At the time, he was also a fitness devotee, competing in triathlons, lifting weights. So when an opportunity to open a little refreshment counter in a gym opened up, he took it. Not long after, the gym moved out.

“The landlord said to me, ‘Well, Mr. Pete, what do you want to do?’” Boothroyd recalls. He sketched out some floor plans, borrowed some money and turned what he calls “a glorified juice bar” into a full-on restaurant. And Centre Street Café was born on a quiet Traverse City side street. That was way back in 1985, but during three decades, Boothroyd hasn’t lost the central element of his success: “I didn’t want just standard. I thought, Let’s make this interesting. Let’s make this an adventure. I want it all to count.”

And that’s how he approached the culinary assignment we proposed, “Cheesy Potatoes and Beyond.” Yes, there are scalloped potatoes—but baked in a muffin tin to make an artful individualized presentation. Yes, there are potato pancakes, but blended with baked kale. Yes, there’s something as simple as a baked potato, but stuffed with a mix of goat cheese, artichoke hearts, truffle oil and more. There’s even a lactose-free dish (really beyond cheese).

For Boothroyd, the family of food called “cheesy potatoes” is “kind of like dessert: decadent and fun. I wanted to spin the cheesy potatoes idea a bit, but still make recipes that would be considered comfort food.”

One measure of success we like: When Boothroyd brought home leftovers from the story photo shoot, his wife tasted the samples and asked him, “Why don’t you bring home more food like this?!” That’s the reaction that delicious comfort can achieve. We think your holiday guests will be likewise impressed.

Potato Towers with Gruyére Cheese & Thyme

  • 2 tablespoons Plugrá or high-quality salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 4–5 medium Klondike rose potatoes peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 24 2-by-2-inch sliced hickory smoked ham squares
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream


  1. Melt butter and transfer to large mixing bowl. Mix in olive oil, spices and lemon juice, followed by potatoes. Toss potatoes until evenly coated.
  2. Layer potato slices in a greased muffin tin adding a slice of ham and a little of the Gruyère after every two slices of potatoes, finishing with potato slices on top.
  3. Spoon heavy cream over each stack of potatoes and fill in any voids.
  4. Tent muffin tin with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. Remove tin from oven and spread remaining cheese over potato stacks.
  5. Bake for another 10 minutes to brown. Remove from oven and let baked potato stacks cool at least 5 minutes. Use a knife and soft spatula to remove stacks. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.

Zucchini & Kale Potato Cakes

(Serves 8–10)

  • 4 large Idaho potatoes peeled and coarsely shredded (or 8 cups of frozen and thawed hash brown potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped kale
  • 8 scallions finely diced
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • thyme sprigs


  1. In a large colander, add the potatoes, zucchini, kale and scallions. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and pat with paper towel. In a large bowl combine the next seven ingredients (garlic thru flour) with the drained potato mixture.
  2. Heat up a large skillet and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When hot, scoop out 1 1/2-inch-diameter rounds of the potato mixture, pressing and flattening them into the moderately heated skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on both sides (or until brown) and place on paper towel.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in a warm oven to hold until ready to serve. Garnish with sour cream and thyme sprigs.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Pancetta, Rosemary & Onion Jam

(Serves 8)

  • 2 pounds multi-colored fingerling potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 5 cloves finely diced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup diced, cooked (somewhat crispy but not burned) pancetta


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add all the ingredients above, with the exception of the pancetta, to an oven-proof skillet and thoroughly mix.
  2. Place in oven for 30 minutes. Every 10 minutes rotate the ingredients in the skillet adding the cooked pancetta for the final 10 minutes.
  3. Serve with rosemary sprigs and onion jam–recipe directly below.

Onion Jam 

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup white wine or white balsamic vinegar


Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the sugar into the onions and continue cooking and stirring until caramelized. Add the vinegar and simmer at a low temperature for approximately 4 to 5 minutes until thickened. Set aside and let cool.

Cheesy Mushroom & Artichoke Baked Potatoes

  • 6 large russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup crumbled or softened goat cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup assorted sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon diced scallions
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon truffle oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bake potatoes for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until done. Combine remaining ingredients.
  3. Cut a slit through the top of each potato and push sides together to open. Fill the top of each potato with the mushroom-artichoke cheese mixture.
  4. Return to oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese in the filling has melted.

Potatoes Au Gratin with Truffle Cream

(Serves 8 to 10)

  • 5 russet potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
  • 16 ounces sliced mushrooms (any variety)
  • 1 large yellow onion sliced
  • 8 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 ounces Plugra salted butter (or good quality butter)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fustini’s truffle oil
  • 8 ounces shredded asiago cheese shredded
  • 6 ounces shredded provolone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of slightly salted water to a boil and add the sliced potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute before pouring into a colander. Rinse with cool water and drain.
  3. Sauté the mushrooms and set aside. Sauté the onions, adding the garlic at the end.
  4. In a saucepan combine the butter, cream and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the cooked onions, garlic, truffle oil, shredded asiago and provolone, salt and pepper to the cream mixture and continue to keep warm.
  5. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish begin by adding some of the cream blend to the dish and next layering the potato slices followed by a light layer of mushrooms and a sprinkling of oregano. Repeat the layering process several times, making sure there is an adequate amount of the cream liquid to barely cover the potatoes at the end.
  6. Cover and tent with foil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes to brown. Let cool 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
cheesy potatoes

Sweet Potato & Eggplant Roulades with Apple Balsamic Reduction

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggplant (cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices)
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 medium onion diced and sautéed
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 16 ounces Fustini’s White Apple Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple peeled and diced small
  • Fresh sage leaves


  1. Bake the sweet potatoes in an oven at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until soft, and set aside.
  2. Salt the sliced eggplant pieces on both sides and place in colander for 30 minutes to sweat. Blot off the excess moisture on the eggplant with paper towel and lightly coat with flour. Dip the flour-coated pieces into a beaten-egg bath, coat with breadcrumbs and set aside.
  3. Add approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large heated skillet and fry eggplant slices for 4 to 5 minutes at medium heat, flipping once until brown on both sides. Set aside when done on a sheet pan with paper towel added.
  4. When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel, retain the potato flesh and place in a mixing bowl to mash, adding the walnuts, cranberries, sautéed onions, nutmeg, salt and sage.
  5. Scoop the sweet potato mixture onto the eggplant slices and roll up into 1 1/2-inch-diameter roulades and place inside a baking dish. Warm the roulades in an oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, simmer the apple balsamic vinegar in a sauté pan along with the diced apples reducing to half (4 to 5 minutes). Prior to serving top with fresh sage and the balsamic reduction.

Photo(s) by Jon-Paul Allgaier