Ever dreamed of having a “Hell’s Kitchen” chef cook for you? Willowbrook Mill in Northport is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime dinner, To Hell & Back, with FIVE “Hell’s Kitchen” alumni chefs each preparing a course. Find out more about this incredible Northern Michigan event (August 27 and 28), and how to get tickets.

Mimi Heberlein, co-owner and general manager of Willowbrook Mill, fills us in:


So, which chefs will be in Northport?


Chef Kim Ryan of Traverse City and season 16 winner, Chef Heidi Parent of season 16, Chef Heather Williams season 16 runner up, Chef T season 14 runner up and Chef Wendy Mendez of season 16.


Can you give us a sneak peek of the menu? 


Each chef is preparing their own course and we are offering a paired wine as well with the full dinner and pairing ticket. Guests will be greeted with a libation and a nosh and then, when guests have taken their seats, the five-course dinner will begin. Expect to find a luscious corn chowder dish from Chef Kim Ryan. Chef Heather Williams is working in secret on her appetizer. Chef Heidi Parent is creating a seafood course and we’re currently making arrangements to fly the lobster from her home state of Maine. Chef T is bringing a southern flavor with a beef course and Chef Wendy Mendez is taking over our cold storage to create a delectable semifreddo course. We are working with Baia Wines, Big/Little Wines, Bel Lago and others to bring the best offerings together with this fabulous menu!


How did this all come together?


This started as a conversation with Chef Kim Ryan, who we met when she was the final and 108th chef of the Visiting Chef Series at Michigan State University, where Joel Heberlein served as General Manager of Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center and the late/great Spartan Hospitality Group at MSU. It took place the night before the world found out that she had won “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 16. Joel previously ran the Jupiter Beach Hilton in Jupiter, Florida where he and Gordon Sinclair, the famous Chicago restaurateur, began the chef series that hosted the likes of Thomas Keller, Joyce Goldstein, Dean Fearing and Nora Pouillion. Kim lives here in Traverse City and we had recently purchased Willowbrook Mill in Northport. Along with weddings we decided to resurrect the chef series here in our own kitchen. We have already hosted sold-out events with Chef Jimmy Schmidt, Chef Rajeev Patgaonkar, Chef Elizabeth Brown and Amy Spitznagel of Idyll Farms. So we called Kim and said, “Hey! Want to come up and do a chef dinner at Willowbrook?” She said yes but threw us a curveball. “I have a lot of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ pals and we love to do things together. What if we invited some others to join in?” She sent a message out to her HK community and within 24 hours, she had 21 responses from HK chefs who wanted into the mix. She did some thinking and pulled together the first three chefs and then Chef Wendy Mendez, a dessert specialist, reached out to say she wanted in too. The rest is, soon to be, history. Oh, and we’re trying to make this a series of HK events so we can bring more of the other 21 chefs way up here to little old Northport to thrill us with their cooking prowess! Stay tuned for news on future events!


What are some highlights of the venue?


We are an iconic venue celebrating 142 years here in Northport. Since its inception, this building has been a gathering space for people for generations. Known currently as an award-winning wedding and event venue, this beautiful space has been featured in print and online magazines near and far. Beautiful hardwood floors, stone-surrounded windows, three cozy fireplaces, a lovely foyer, porch bar, wrap-around outdoor decks, a bridge walkway to the ballroom and a lower-level stone patio aside the Northport Creek set the scene for perfect events of all types.

Photo(s) by Jessie Zevalkink