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Peter Roumanis left Manhattan and returned home to Ann Arbor to open Vellum. The historic building once housed a printing press, hence the name Vellum, a word for parchment paper.
Peter Roumanis knows he’s walking a tight rope. He admits Vellum, his one-year-old restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI, “is all about balance.” He wants the 130-seat restaurant in his hometown to be both a “modern American restaurant of the moment,” but also one that “appeases the Midwestern palate.” Burgers and bone marrow, Budweiser and Bordeaux and Manhattan in the Midwest, Vellum is a study in contrasts.
Roumanis is young, with boyish good looks to match, which makes it easy to think his ambition could be blinded by his youth. That skepticism is partially why he resisted revealing his age for so long, but he now admits, not quite freely, that he’s 25. His resume belies those years.
He started working in his father’s restaurant at age 12, apprenticed in the kitchen at Taillevent in Paris at 16, under the legendary Jean-Claude Vrinat, later worked the line at Daniel in New York City, graduated from Cornell with a degree in hospitality management and was managing Del Posto for Mario Batali at age 21, the youngest manager of a four-star restaurant in New York. Really.
Roumanis has been working toward this for a long time. His father and now financial partner at Vellum, John, owns two other popular Ann Arbor restaurants, Carlyle Grill and Mediterrano, and the family owns an olive oil company in Greece, where they’re from. “I’ve been steeped in this tradition for a long time,” Roumanis says of his upbringing. It’s why he chose to return to the town he grew up in.
Vellum opened in November of 2012 with great expectations and even better early reviews, but there were questions. “Everyone was thinking, ‘This is great, but you can’t do that here,’” Roumanis recalls. “We thought we could, but many thought it was audacious to try.”
Roumanis got his validation in December. The Detroit Free Press honored Vellum as one of its 13 best new restaurants, with critic Sylvia Rector proclaiming: “The intensity and drive of Roumanis and his staff show a passion for food and service that many restaurants lack.” Before that, Eater marked Roumanis as one of its Young Gun Semifinalists and Wine Spectator honored Vellum’s wine list.