Chef Eric Giles passes: Award winning entrepreneur, culinary artist and social activist

chronicle@michronicleonline.com | 2/6/2014, 9:50 a.m.
<div><p>Executive Chef and Owner of The Sunday Dinner Company Catering and Personal Chef Services, Eric S.C. Giles, passed away unexpectedly ...

Executive Chef and Owner of The Sunday Dinner Company Catering and Personal Chef Services, Eric S.C. Giles, passed away unexpectedly at his home on Friday, January 31, 2014. He was 49.

Giles, known locally and nationally as an award winning entrepreneur, culinary artist and social activist used his talents to provide training and numerous job opportunities, for youth, seniors and returning citizens. His most recent venture, “Pop – Up Restaurant, Lunch at Techtown” was scheduled to premiere February 5, 2014 in Detroit.

David Theriault, business partner and co-owner of The Sunday Dinner Company Restaurant (temporarily closed pending relocation) fondly remembers the eatery’s debut. “We opened Sunday, May 9, 2010 on Mother’s Day. Chef Giles greeted our guests ebulliently – exuding pride, not in himself, but in our staff and in our mission.” During a radio interview on WDET’s “The Craig Fahle Show” Chef Giles stated. “We’re really only 25% restaurant and 75% social enterprise. It’s what Detroit has to do. There’s a church on every corner of this city but so little forgiveness. You have a generation and a half that has no training and no hope. Local businesses have to engage, period.”

The duo employed returning citizens from Goodwill Industries’ “Flip the Script” program to renovate the historic building using exclusively recycled materials. They hired young people, some with no prior work experience, as wait staff. Molly Abraham, restaurant critic for the Detroit News, noted in her column on May 27, 2010 …”You won’t find a more courteous and helpful staff, both on the phone and in person, or a better-dressed one. As a table is seated, a waiter in a crisp white dress shirt brings the menu and explains the system. …The Sunday Dinner Company offers a second chance to those whose lives have been disrupted by poverty and crime.”

“Chef Giles was an urbane, erudite gadfly who left an indelible mark on Detroit by reaching out to help some of the city’s most challenged residents”, said Michael g. Cunningham, pastor of Historic East Lake Church of Detroit. “Regardless of whether he was catering a luncheon at the Governor’s mansion, hosting a dinner for Obama staffers at his restaurant, or serving homeless people in a shelter, he brought the same level of elegance and excellence to the event.”

In 2002 East Lake boldly opened The Kingdom Men’s Café – a full service soul food restaurant – and housed it inside the church. Giles, already a church member, was hired as the Executive Chef. It was at the café that Eric Giles became the persona Chef Giles. In a glowing 2004 Metro

Times review Elissa Karg wrote, The food is equal to many other soul food restaurants, but it costs less, your plate sits on linen tablecloths and the service is fastidious. Chef Giles sees the café as an opportunity for men in the church to work together on a project, at the same time providing work experience and mentoring for teenagers. The café closed a few years ago but the legacy continues in the form of Chef Giles’ Café Salad Dressing and Marinade which can still be found on store shelves.