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Longtime Detroit metro chef Matt Prentiss, who once ran more than a dozen restaurants, has died after a short illness.

He was 62. His death was listed as unrelated to COVID-19.

Prentiss was best known for the former Unique Restaurant Corp., which was the driving force behind many subway restaurants in Detroit, including the former Coach Insignia at the top of the Renaissance Center (now Highlands), Deli Unique, Duet, Shiraz, Morels, Northern Sea Lakes gifts and much more. The restaurant group was later renamed the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group.

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Prentiss was a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and a native of Detroit. He is known for starting the career of many subway chefs from Detroit.

Most recently, Prentiss partnered with Mary Liz Curtin of the popular Leon and Lulu in Clawson to open the Three Cats Café in the adjoining theater retailer’s building.

“There are so many chefs in this city who started in one of its kitchens,” said Mary Liz Curtin of Leon & Lulu. “He was a wonderful teacher and he was very generous with his time, skills and everything.”

The restaurant opened in the fall of 2019 after the expiration of the five-year non-compete agreement that Prentiss had on behalf of the court with a former employer from a group of restaurants.

“There’s a lot of space in Three Cats. Matt was a big man with a huge heart, a strong laugh, and a generous spirit. He was a wonderful teacher, a great mentor and an amazing chef. All of us at Three Cats thank him and are proud to be a Matt Prentice restaurant. We will always serve his favorite recipes and there will always be mushrooms on the menu, “said Curtin.

Prentiss was also known for his philanthropic work, including working closely with Cass Community Services and Rev. Faith Fowler, a Detroit-based nonprofit that provides housing, food, health care and on-the-job training. Prentiss, according to a news release announcing his death, created the CASS kitchen, which serves more than 700,000 dishes a year.

“Matt taught our staff to cook from scratch. He taught me how to recognize hospitality and practice generosity,” said the Rev. Fowler. “We are shocked by this news and will always be grateful to Matt for his friendship and talent.”

The Three Cats kitchen will be run by Drew Kayuela and Alex Matoin. The chefs, Curtin said, share “the spirit, generosity and taste of Prentiss that will keep us at Matt Prentiss’s restaurant.”

Contact the Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selaski and send food and restaurant news to: 313-222-6872 or sselasky@freepress.com. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.

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