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November 06, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-06

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4B -- Thursday, November 6, 2014 theb-side

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - Thursday, November 6,2014 the h-side The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom


DJ Jinx spins a set at Necto's industiral night.
Exploring Factory
Monday at Necto

Brendan McCall is the executive chef at Mani Osteria and Isalita.

known' event
draws Goth-
Industrial crowd
Online Arts Editor
The streets were quiet when
I drove with a friend to Necto
on a Monday night two weeks
ago. It was about midnight; we
found a parking spot in front of
the State Theatre, walked across
empty intersections toward the
club's unassuming facade and,
finding no line, made our way
I really wasn't sure what I
would be seeing behind those
doors. I knew that Necto's
Factory Monday must attract
a healthy crowd - it has been
a tradition since 2004 and,
according to the club's website,
is "internationally known" - but
I honestly had no idea what to
expect from the night's Goth-
Industrial crowd. What exactly
do several hundred morose,
leather- and guyliner-clad
twenty-somethings do when
they together in a room?
After climbing the stairs
leading to Necto's main dance
floor, it became immediately
clear that I had been asking the
wrong question.
I was there during Halfway
to Halloween, one of Factory
Monday's monthly theme
parties, and the club was filled
with around 600 costumed
patrons sporting a roughly
equal mix of goth-inspired
garb and bright, colorful outfits
taken from video games and TV
shows. The mood was festive -
everyone was waiting for the
night's culminating costume
contest - and as my friend and
I went around the club talking
to some of the guests, the warm,
welcoming feeling pervading the
room was inescapable.
I asked the patrons I spoke
with how often they came
to Factory Monday and was

surprised to find that almost
everyone in the room was a
regular. Sal Giorzano, a tall
guy dressed as the villain from
"Repo Man," explained that he
had been coming to the night
since it began in 2004.
"Shit, I've been here probably
two years' worth of Mondays,"
he said. "I've been coming here
for twelve years, since they
started Mondays here."
And it became increasingly
clear that the welcoming
atmosphere I noticed when I
walked into the room is exactly
what attracts people to Factory
Mondays. Samantha Littleton
and Nicole Walker were relative
newcomers to the night -
Walker had only been there a
handful of times and this was
Littleton's first visit to the club
- but they were willing to drive
more than four hours from their
home in Michigan's thumb to
enjoy the comfortable vibe at
"I feel comfortable here,"
Walker said. "People normally
look at me weird for wearing
leather, but I like to come
here because I always get
compliments on it. So it's the
atmosphere, everyone's so nice."
"I actually only came here
because of (Walker)," Littleton
added. "I'm not really into the
whole goth thing. But I like it so
far. Like she said, everybody's so
nice here."
Necto Manager Bryan Kostoff
and DJ Jinx, the two directors
of Factory Monday, explained
that that friendly, welcoming
atmosphere is what allows the
night to be successful, even on
an off-day like Monday.
"The community is very
inclusive and very vibrant,"
DJ Jinx said. "You'll walk in
and you'll meet one person,
then you'll meet thirty more
before you leave for the night.
It's actually one of the things
that makes a night on a Monday
thrive instead of a traditional
weekend. Everybody seems to
want to talk to everybody else, it
makes it a better place."
The welcoming vibe at

Factory Monday differs starkly
from other Industrial nights
around the country, which, as
Kostoff explained, can often be
somewhat exclusionary.
"Other places that typically
have industrial music or that
kind of scene, it's a kind of a
hard crowd," he said. "They only
play rather aggressive industrial
music, it's not a very welcoming
environment. It's a little elitist."
And Necto's more eclectic
atmosphere can turn off more
devoted members of the goth
scene like Giorzano.
"Let's put it this way," he said.
"This is the second time I've
been here in a year. I've stopped
coming. If they have big events,
I'll come out for the big events.
The crowds have changed a lot.
The new generation sucks, but it
is what it is."
But as DJ Jinx and Kostoff
explained, Factory Monday
isn't really about catering to any
particular crowd.
"For us, we try to have a
much more open vibe to what
we do," Kostoff said. "We're not
a straight up Industrial night -
we try to embrace nerd culture
because that's who we are."
"We're a potpourri night, in
a lot of ways," DJ Jinx added.
"We welcome everybody, you
know, the strange from any
It's about building and
supporting an eclectic
community of people, a circle
of friends who, though drawn
from different backgrounds,
are simply there to have a good
time and enjoy each other's
"If I wanted to cater only to
the 'I'm gother than thou, oh
woe is me' crowd, we'd be doing
fifty or sixty people a night and
I'd be bored and depressed out
of my mind every week," DJ
Jinx said. "But with this, I've
got people who I genuinely
want to see and look forward to
hugging and seeing next week.
Every Monday is like a family
reunion, and every week my
family gets a little bit bigger
and more unique."

When Brendan McCall was
a student at the University in
the late '90s, he thought about
becoming a lawyer, or maybe
an architect. He still could pass
for one - medium height, slim,
with a trimmed beard and thick
glasses. But one look at his arms,
and his profession becomes quite
"There's two ways to tell if
someone's actually a cook. One,
your arms are burned," he says,
jerking up his sleeve to reveal a
series of thin red lines running
elbow to wrist. "If you're a chef
and your arms aren't burned,
you don't work in the kitchen any
"And then this," he says,
pointing to the bottlecap-sized
callous between his index finger
and palm, the result of years of
gripping a knife.
McCall has certainly earned
his scars. He's now the executive
chef at both Mani Osteria and
Isalita, two wildly popular
restaurants on East Liberty that
are favorites of both reviewers
and students alike. But McCall's
journey started as akid, when his
hands were still soft buta love of
food was already seared into his
Born in Somerville,
Massachusetts, McCall moved
around a lot, but was anchored
by his large, extended family -
many of whom originated from
"It's cliched at this point, but
cooking is part of your lifestyle,"
he says of his Italian-American
"You don't have to rediscover
food as a daily part of your life,
which is what's happened to a lot
of Americans," he adds.
Growing up in a family where
grandparents might have three
separate kitchens in one house,
and children were enlisted to
peel potatoes and pick herbs at
every gathering, it would be hard
not to become a food lover. But
when McCall came to Ann Arbor
for college, he soon learned that
he wouldn't always have thirty
food-crazed paesanos with him

at every meal.
"I took it for granted, because
that's how I grew up," he says.
"But then you come to college
and you suddenly have to create
and maintain that culture for
As a student, he majored
in history and anthropology
and nurtured his ever-present
interest in cooking by hosting
dinner parties for friends. But
after graduating, and realizing
that he had no interest in law, he
decided to turn his hobby into a
living, at least until he figured
things out
"While I'm decidingthis, I still
have to pay my bills to U of M, so
I thought 'Why don't I get in a
kitchen?"' he says.
McCallgotafootinthe kitchen
door by starting at the lowest-
ranking positions, dishwashing
and prepping, at Diamond Jim
Brady's Bistro in Novi. He waited
patiently for a chance - really a
temporary promotion.
"There'll be an instance where
some guy calls off, he has too
much to drink the night before,
he doesn't show up for his shift,
you've been paying attention, and
then suddenly you're workingthe
lunch shift," he says.
McCall kept paying attention
and was soon working different
stations in the kitchen and
making friends and connections
in the industry. These early
days were a slog, no doubt, but
necessary to learn the basics. He
then moved on to kitchen jobs
in Metro Detroit, and stints in
Portland and Charleston, before
finally returning to Ann Arbor,
for what he dubs a "followed-a-
girl-here kind of thing."
Now back in his college town,
McCall became a sous-chef at
Eve, a once-lauded Kerrytown
establishment that unfortunately
closed in 2011. He even worked
at Zingerman's, or "anywhere I
could get knowledge," as he puts
His big break came, however,
when he became the executive
chef at Everyday Cook, a unique
new eatery and store in the
Kerrytown Market. It was a
highly creative, experimental
environment, where lunch every
day was determined by the
bounty of the farmers market,
and private dinner parties could
feature cuisines, and proportions,
not typically seen in these parts.
"We'd do something like
15 course tasting menus from
southern Spain for eleven
people," McCall says with a
After a short stint in catering,
McCall wanted to open his own
place. When I ask whether,
because of his background,
he immediately wanted to do
Italian, he explains that the
restaurant business is rarely that
"If you've been in the business
long enough with friends, you've
had a lot of ideas for things you'd
want to do, but you can't find the
space, can't find the backing,
can't find the team," he says. "
You need someone who's going
to take that chance on you, so
I was really just waiting for a
chance, rather than a specific
cuisine to do."

With his business partner
Adam Baru, he opened Mani in
May 2011. McCall knew that for
the restaurant to be successful,
and satisfying, it had to have
the correct proportions of

authenticity and comfort, which
are always a concern when
serving "real" Italian food.
"You want it to work, right?
There's really no point in doing
it if people aren't going to enjoy
it. We're trying to make them
happy, we're trying to feed
them. If they're happy, we have
a healthy business," he says
"If I try to do something
that's only for me, only what I
love, but no one else likes it; and
I keep pushing it, then that's
just ego, and it's not going to
work in the long run anyways,"
he adds.
Mani's menu reflects this
philosophy. There is a simple
Margherita pizza, but there's
also one with pistachios and
red onions. Brunch features
an egg dish, but this egg is
all'amatriciana, an adaptation of
the classic Roman pasta sauce
of tomato, Pecorino cheese and
cured pork cheek, or guanciale.
"What we try to do is make
it approachable, oftentimes
recognizable, but with lots of
surprises, with an element of
discovery," he says.
And as Mani gets more and
more popular, McCall's dishes
can get more and more creative
and surprising
"When we opened, people
just wanted the salads and the
pizza," he says. "It took several
months for them to say 'Lets try
the octopus,' or 'Let's have more
of that pork belly.' They start to
trust you a little more. Now that
we have their trust, I think we
can do more."
But Mani wasn't enough.
Baru's wife is Mexican, and he
and McCall had always wanted
to open a Mexican eatery in
Ann Arbor that went beyond
burritos and nachos. This idea
became Isalita, opened two
years after Mani, but separated
by just a wall. One wouldn't
have thought it would be
hard to serve Mexican food in
Ann Arbor, but McCall says
"If you want to talk about
having a difficult time with
people's understanding of the
cuisine, Mexican is a much more
difficult sell than Italian," he
says. "Italian has a much longer
history of being related to fine
dining, of people thinking that
they'll go out for a full dinner,
while people think of Mexican
as knocked-down, inexpensive,
lots of beans and rice, lots of
Isalita's menu isn't any of
those things -think watermelon
gazpacho and braised lamb
tacos. And though it is a separate
restaurant from Mani, ideas and
people flow between them.
"The staff is excited by both
sides. You'll see a lot of the staff
at Mani dining at Isalita, and
vice versa. Both sides are very
proud of both restaurants," he
McCall is himself proud of
having fathered this multi-
cultural restaurant family. But
his success doesn't mean that
he can sit back and watch the
kids peel the potatoes and pick
the herbs. When he shows the
photographer and me Mani's
wood oven, we ask if he'd

mind standing in front of it
for a photo, or if the heat, now
shimmeringoffthe bricks, is too
He laughs. "This is where I
stand every night."




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