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FROM OUR KITCHENSBUILDING OUR DREAMS TOGETHER2012 GLCI grad opens two Frankfort restaurants in four years2012 GREAT LAKES CULINARY INSTITUTE GRADUATE NATALIE CRAWFORD AND HER HUSBAND NICK OPENED BIRCH & MAPLE IN FRANKFORT IN 2018. CHEF NATALIE CRAWFORDand her sommelier husband Nick were trying to choose a name for their frst restaurant together while hiking in Benzie County’s Green Point Dunes.They hung up their hammocks to take a break. While talking it over, they noticed they’d chosen a birch and a maple tree for their hammocks.Thus was born Birch & Maple, the Frankfort establishment where Natalie’s created a menu of “elevated comfort food” and Nick handles all things beverage. Customers have responded so enthusiastically since the doors opened in 2018 that the couple is now poised to open a second restaurant, Dos Arboles, a taco and tequila bar, next door.Crawford, 34, who worked at three different restaurants in Colorado, where she met Nick, uses lessons from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute daily. Keeping an immaculate kitchen, as preached by former director Fred Laughlin, and the recipe template from Chef Joel Papcun, are two foundational ones.YUM YUM SAUCETHE YUM YUM SAUCE APPEARS HERE OVER BRAISED SHORT RIBS, BUT IS VERSATILE OVER MANY PROTEINS.1 1/4 cup tamari1 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup scallions sliced as circle 1 tbsp red pepper flakes 1 1/4 fl oz sweet Thai chili sauce1 1/4 tbspsesame oil1/2 tbsp fish sauce6 cloves garlic, minced fine2 tbsp cilantro, chiffonade fine3 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced fineMix all ingredients together in Cambro. Let sit overnight before portioning into quarts.Make sure to portion all the goodies evenly when putting into quarts.“I try to take kind of humble ingredients and turn it into something exquisite,” she said. The menu changes four times a year, to take advantage of seasonal ingredients. Meanwhile, Nick, 36, crafts cocktails and a wine list that complements his wife’s menu.They’ve thrown themselves into serving Frankfort. That’s meant sleeping on Birch & Maple booths and opening at 4 a.m. to serve Ironman competitors, adapting their menu to be takeaway-friendly during COVID-19, and cultivating an employee-driven culture that includes one fellow GLCI alumnus and even staff housing inside Dos Arboles.“We want to be in this industry. We love hospitality. We’re lifers,” Crawford said.