Whether it be fun street food like bao buns, or a sophisticated small plate featuring pan-fried mackerel, Grant Vella loves to cook.
“I started cooking in a corporate franchise, met most of my friends there,” explains Vella. “I really fell in love, not just with food, but serving people, and making them happy through food.”
After college, he started a few food trucks with friends, before taking the leap and opening his own restaurant.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people that I worked with called me for support, and asked for help, and I really couldn’t help them... It really gave me the extra push I needed to start my own place,” says Vella.
It also gave him a chance to explore his heritage. Vella is a Korean adoptee, whose parents took him home at 3 months old. He never knew much about his Korean heritage and looked at this as an opportunity to explore the culture and the food.
“As a Korean adoptee, you have that question in the back of your mind,” says Vella. “When you’re younger, and you’re a kid, you don’t lean into those things, you’re just trying to fit in - girls, sports, you name it, and as you get older you kind of slow down, and take time to really focus on yourself.”
So he opened The Lucky Duck in 2021, naming it after a nickname his mom had from him growing up, her lucky duckling.
The sharable small plates on his menu are a combination of all his influences.
“The foundation and hospitality is the essence of Korean [culture]. Being classically trained in French culinary and of course living in Michigan my whole life... I brought it all together under one roof,” explains Vella.
Popular dishes include their bao buns, which are lightly fried giving them a slightly different texture than traditional bao buns. The frying gives the soft sweet buns a slightly crispy exterior. They come in three flavors, Korean spiced eggplant, crispy tofu, and pork belly. A great fusion dish is the Doenjang Street Corn, which is like a Korean take on elotes. It features corn tossed in a savory doenjang mayo with pickled red onions, mozzarella cheese and finished with green onions. If you’re lucky and come on a Friday or Saturday, you can try their Dry-aged duck which is braised in soy sauce, and served with marbled potatoes and caramelized onions.
For more information, watch the full video above. If you want to visit The Lucky Duck, it is located at 38 S Main St, Clawson, MI 48017.