As a 13-year-old growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Mike Chalhoub couldn’t wait until his school day was done.
Unlike most of his friends, he had more to look forward to than playing ball or riding a bike after classes.
He was going to his job as a busboy at The Summertimes restaurant, where he would soon be immersed in the aromas of cumin and coriander and freshly chopped cilantro, onions and garlic, while the chefs sliced, sautéed and shouted orders to each other for chicken shata or the lamb and chicken shawarmas, for which the restaurant was known.
“My boss saw my passion for food and hard work,” Chalhoub says, “and soon promoted me to cooking.”
By age 18, Chalhoub was running the snack bar, night club and main restaurant of a nearby hotel. At 23, he opened a restaurant on the Ivory Coast.
“Soldiers came and took it over,” Chalhoub said.
He moved to the United States and worked in several Mediterranean eateries until starting the Troy location of Grape
Leaves in 2004.
“It was challenging,” Chalhoub says. “I wanted everything to be perfect: fresh, delicious, healthy and, especially, consistent. And, you know what? Everything, thirteen years later, is still the same consistent quality.
And,” he says, “I guarantee that what you enjoy here today will taste the same when you order ten years from now!”
Each morning, Chalhoub and his brother and general manager, Brian, shop for fresh vegetables and meat and deliver them to the three Grape Leaves locations (Troy, Oak Park, Southfield). The chicken will be marinated; the lamb, roasted; the vegetables, washed and sliced: all readied for the stews, salads, sautees and specialty dishes that will be made-to-order for dine-in or carry-out lunches and dinners, as well as catered events.
“I wish I had photos of one wedding we catered,” Chalhoub says, “with a whole, baked lamb. It was fantastic. Everyone loved it!”
Diners eat there often and are treated like family. “Hello, Squash Guys!” Brian says, greeting longtime customers, Dodie and Warren, as they enter. They hug Brian warmly.
“We started coming here eight years ago,” Dodie says. “Currently, we’ve had to omit dairy, sugar and meat. Here, we can always have the most healthy and delicious meals.” Warren laughs.
“That’s why you get to know the boss! Look! They made me these fresh-cooked cottage fries to go with my cousa (stuffed squash),” Warren says.
“My crew is the best,” Chalhoub says. “Though some of the wait staff leave for other careers after college, 90 per cent of my cooks have been with me for many years.”
And, though Chalhoub now leaves most of the cooking to his staff, today he motions, “Come! I want you to see the creation of my favorite dish: chicken ghallaba!”
He washes his hands and dons gloves, apron, chef hat. With a 10-inch, razor-honed knife, he slices onions, peppers, carrot – even mushrooms – with lightning quickness and tosses them into a sizzling pan. The vegetables are cheerfully thrown in air and then land amid marinated chicken breast he’s added.
“Now,” he says, spooning a red powder over the skillet, “here is for the special taste: my own spice blend!”
Holding the plate of golden chicken with its mound of brilliant vegetables and rice, Chalhoub smiles and says, “If you want to stay healthy and eat delicious food, come to Grape Leaves. A visit a day keeps the doctor away!”
As a young Canadian medical student who dreamed of working surgically with her hands and helping cancer patients of all ages, Troy ophthalmologist Dr. A. Luisa Di Lorenzo of Somerset Ophthalmology began her oncology rotation at The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland with eager anticipation.
Dr. A. Luisa Di Lorenzo of Somerset Ophthalmology in Troy
But as the program progressed – and she learned that, as an oncologist, she wouldn’t be doing surgery and would need to choose between adults and children as patients – Di Lorenzo wondered if oncology was truly the best specialty field for her.
“Fortuitously,” says Dr. Di Lorenzo, “in my final year of medical school, my rotation in ophthalmology at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, was with larger-than-life Professor Louis Collum. During my very first day with him, I saw that he cared for children as well as adults – and he performed surgeries, too. And when, with photos of the inside of eyes, he innovatively taught us that all diseases can affect the eyes, I knew by the end of that first day that I wanted to become an ophthalmologist.”
Having completed an Internal Medicine Residency at Wayne State University and an Ophthalmology Residency at the Kresge Eye Institute of Wayne State University, serving as Chief Resident in her last year, Dr. Di Lorenzo established Somerset Ophthalmology in Troy.
Di Lorenzo explains some of the almost science fiction-like improvements in the field that she has seen and passionately incorporated into her practice of eighteen years.
“Cataract surgery has changed tremendously,” Dr. Di Lorenzo says, “with extremely small incisions and ‘no-stitch’ techniques. Implant lenses are tiny, and anesthesia is now topical instead of being injected around the eyeball. Patients who may be on blood thinners no longer have to stop them.”
The lenses implanted during cataract procedures have also improved dramatically, along with methods for more precise measurements in calculating the appropriate strength of the lens. In the last ten years, inter-ocular lenses have been developed that can correct astigmatism and offer multi-focal and accommodative vision, often allowing patients to forego reading glasses.
Many eye patients dread a diagnosis of macular degeneration which, in the past, has often meant certain loss of clear sight. Dr. Di Lorenzo, who also teaches at Oakland University and Wayne State University medical schools, is thrilled that people with macular degeneration now have vastly improved chances of maintaining – and sometimes even improving – their vision. “There’s been a major treatment development since 2004 for patients with “wet” macular degeneration, in which blood builds up behind the retina, consisting of special intra-ocular injections.”
And the doctor is very excited about recent research of “dry” macular degeneration. “AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Studies),” she said, “found that ingesting nutrients such as lutein, zinc and others in leafy green vegetables not only can halt ongoing deterioration – but can offer condition improvement! Over-the-counter ocular supplements are valuable, and I do recommend them to my patients.”
The doctor has additional recommendations for eye health and safety. “Don’t smoke!” she states. “Smoking is a great risk factor for eye disease. And wear protective eyewear for sports and industrial work of any kind. So many children have eye injuries from soccer balls, etc., hitting unprotected eyes. And I do recommend that children see an ophthalmologist who, with their scope of training, can often spot lazy eye, tumors, neurological and other issues during examinations.”
“Interestingly,” she adds, “exercise is great for vision health. Also, wear sunglasses in bright light. And eat those leafy, green vegetables!”
Dr. Di Lorenzo and her associate, Dr. Sue Lim, do believe in a “total body” approach and, in their personalized and compassionate practice, they treat their patients – children and adults – like family. “It’s easy to make treatment decisions when you feel that way,” the doctor says. “We are available all the time. We love what we do.”
And, where outside the walls of her practice, Di Lorenzo zealously pursues new surgical techniques and knowledge, she also is active with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Michigan State Medical Society and the Michigan Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (serving as its president in 2010). In rare leisure time she enjoys acting, music, all types of athletics, entertaining, traveling and being with her husband, an internist.
But, with everything that she does, Dr. Di Lorenzo’s true focus is stated as a quote on their website (somersetophthalmology.com): “The beauty of life is in the details.”
And, she wants us to be able to see all of them.
2877 Crooks Rd. Suite B
Troy, MI 48084