But long before the letdown in Las Vegas, there was success here at home. Eve's always given credit to her restaurant team, and in January she strengthened it further by adding general manager and minority partner Rick Halberg (former owner of the well-regarded Emily's Restaurant in Northville) and sous chef Max Sussman (coauthor with brother Eli of Freshmen in the Kitchen). The new lineup was firmly in place when, in April, she disappeared from Ann Arbor for several weeks.
She had signed a secrecy contract with Bravo that was so strict she couldn't even tell her staff where she went. While she was competing in Las Vegas, they thought she was visiting Israel. The cover story, she explains, "had to be somewhere where I couldn't call in twenty times a day like I usually do when I'm gone. And it had to be somewhere where people couldn't reach me easily."
The secrecy continued: she had to get Bravo's permission to talk to me on the phone in late July. One of the show's associates set up the call and monitored the entire conversation from her office in Manhattan to make sure no spoilers leaked.
So when I reviewed her new lunch menu, I didn't know how Aronoff fared against her sixteen rivals (the season kicked off as we went to press). As most interested locals know by now, she was booted off Top Chef in round two. But having followed her restaurant's progress since it opened in 2003, the show didn't affect my assessment of eve: it is cooking better and running more smoothly than ever.