WLAA Spotlight: Chef de Cuisine Adam VanBerkum keeps things sizzling at The Chop House

When people think of Ann Arbor they often think in colors – like blue, for example. Or they think in tradition – “Michigan Theatre,” or “The Big House,” or “The Art Fair,” or, well, you get the idea.

Ann Arbor also has a flavor all its own, and the city sizzles with the cooked-to-perfection prime beef and freshly caught seafood at The Chop House, one of Ann Arbor’s exquisite answers to fine dining.

The Chop House, located on Main Street in the heart of downtown, has pampered its guests through the truest fine dining experience:

* Savor exceptional cuts of USDA Prime beef that are the perfect combination of flavor and tenderness.

* Delight in the finest and freshest top-catch fish and premium seafood.

* Experience their extraordinary service and extensive premium wine selection.

Chop House – Dishes of Dreams

At the head of the table and in charge of the kitchen is Chop House Chef de Cuisine Adam VanBerkum.

VanBerkum, who was born in Iowa, moved to the west side of Michigan when he was around 10 years old. After graduating from Western Michigan University, he headed east – but not too far east.

“I grew up thinking the west side of Michigan was the best side until I moved to the east side,” he says with a smile.

And he brought with him his experience, work ethic and a growing passion for cooking.

“There was a little mom and pop restaurant up from my house in Muskegon and when I was 16 I got a job there dish washing,” VanBerkum says. “I went to Western for business and got a marketing degree and a minor in business. Once I graduated, I was an admission advisor for a college and quickly discovered it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Sitting in a cubicle wasn’t for me.”

And while washing dishes wasn’t something he wanted to do either, he missed the energy and atmosphere and the aroma of accomplishment he felt when working in a well-run kitchen.

VanBerkum soon landed jobs in some of those well-run kitchens and started to move up – and he moved up quickly. He started in Ann Arbor working as a line cook and then supervisor at Gratzi, another one of Mainstreet Ventures outstanding local restaurants.


His first job as head chef was a four-year stay at the popular Brecon Grille in Saline and then took the job as head chef at Palio, another Mainstreet Ventures restaurant, where he stayed two years before moving over to the Chop House.

“It’s the real deal here in Ann Arbor,” says VanBerkum. “We can get really busy here. It’s not like the Ground Round in Muskegon. But I love the intensity of it and you know you are going to be busy every night and we need to be ready.”

And they are always ready.

“I’ve been here at the Chop House now for almost eight years and every day is a full day and that’s one of the things I love about it,” he says. “I also like that I see many of the same faces. We have lifetime members of the restaurant industry here from the front of the house to the back. And the people here are very, very good at what they do.

“Our level of service and our determination to give you the best quality food is something we all are very passionate about. It’s nice to be proud of what you do every day and that feeling is company-wide.”

Chef Adam has three simple rules for people he works with:

“Number one is a sense of urgency. I can’t teach that, you either have it or you don’t,” he says. “Two, be on time. If you’re not on time, you’re wasting my time. And three is you will have a good attitude. It’s going to be busy. It’s going to be hot but everyone is helping each other and if everyone has a good attitude it’s a huge difference and helps make things work.”

One of many dishes Chef Adam is proud of is the Chop House’s famous Cowboy Steak, a 22 ounce bone-in-ribeye served with asparagus, lobster claws and Béarnaise sauce.

“It’s just one of the staples here,” he says. “There are certain things you are going to find at every steak house but we feel we do ours a little bit better than anywhere else. If I came here looking for that unique and special steak, this is the one I would get.”

Chef Adam has called the Chop House home for almost eight years but there will come a time when it’s time to move on.

“I would like to someday be running multiple units within this company,” he says.
“And we have a lot of restaurants. Working downtown at this fast pace is great now and I don’t really want to be anywhere else. But this is a young man’s game and it requires a lot of energy.”

And Chef Adam still has the energy along with the experience and passion to be running one of Ann Arbor’s exquisite answers to fine dining.

The Chop House Ann Arbor
322 S Main Street Ann Arbor, MI 48104
General Manager: Sue Burke
Chef de Cuisine: Adam VanBerkum
Phone: (734) 669-8826
Reservations: (888) 456-3463
Online: HERE