THE BLACK PEARL TEAM

 

 
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EXECUTIVE CHEF
JAMES WILHELM

James was raised on the eastside of Detroit in a household that made everything from scratch. This is where his passion for cooking was born. He entered the restaurant industry at age 14 with Andiamo Trattoria, a kitchen focused on made-from-scratch cooking. His experience working there confirmed that he found his calling. He went on to earn a Bronze medal in the American Culinary Federation post-secondary hot foods competition and helped coach young chefs to the podium in years after. He worked at the Common Grill in Chelsea, MI and then headed to New York City, honing his culinary craft at Empellon Cocina, Momofuku Ma Peche and Seamstress. On a trip to visit their sons, Jan and Harry, owners of Black Pearl Ann Arbor, asked James if he would ever come back to Michigan. He said it has always been his dream to be the Executive Chef at Black Pearl because he was part of the team that created the original menu in 2008. Chef James brings a new level of creativity to our offerings with an emphasis on what's fresh, what's in season, and what's delicious.

 
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GENERAL MANAGER
MICHAEL HOLE

Michael's mother was a managing partner in several restaurants and early on, he immersed himself in the hospitality business. He worked every position, including the kitchen, the bar and the front of the house. Michael's first experience as a General Manager was about 15 years ago in Royal Oak at Fifth Ave Billiards, a very high volume bar and live entertainment venue. What was missing was the chance to combine his love of food with his vast knowledge of wine and spirits. When he met Harry, he told him that he wanted this to be the last job he ever has. For Michael, this is more than a job. He continuously shows our guests what it's like to use love as the main ingredient in everything we do.

 
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FRONT OF HOUSE MANAGER
JENNIFER BURACK

Since she arrived in 2015 as a hostess, Jennifer has worked with the Black Pearl team to tend to every aspect of the restaurant - including roles as a bartender, private event coordinator, and even support for the restaurant’s in-house microgreen operation. Now, as Front of House Manager, Jennifer utilizes that varied experience to manage daily operations. Having engaged with guests at every moment along the way, she brings deep empathy and relationship-building to her interactions, ensuring that each dining experience at Black Pearl is a memorable one. A Michigan native, Jennifer looks forward to continuing to grow alongside the Black Pearl team.

 
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PRIVATE EVENT COORDINATOR
NANCY O’PIELA

After years of working in the corporate environment, Nancy decided to change directions by accepting a position that would allow her to express creativity and work directly with clients. As Black Pearl’s Private Event Coordinator, she books and manages parties and special events. Utilizing a variety of menu, staffing, and room design options, she seeks to accommodate your various needs to ensure a wonderful event experience. Whether you are planning a birthday party, rehearsal dinner, or business event, she is eager to assist in making your next occasion a success in hopes that you will want to return time and time again.

 
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CREATIVE DIRECTOR
JENNI HELLER

Jenni joined the Black Pearl family in 2016, looking to assist Jan Cohen with her work as the restaurant’s resident photographer and graphic designer. As time went on, Jenni took on more responsibilities, first in becoming the company’s Social Media Manager, then in designing and maintaining Black Pearl’s website, and eventually stepping up to be Creative Director in order to give Jan more time to concentrate on photographing non-profit organizations. Jenni’s goal is to improve the brand awareness, reach, and appearance of Black Pearl through digital marketing and design. She regularly photographs food, drinks, staff, and events, collaborates with managerial staff at weekly meetings, designs new posters and menus, and creates content for social media. Check out her work on any of the Black Pearl’s social media outlets!

 
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OWNER
HARRY COHEN

As a psychologist who travels the country giving talks to executives on leadership, customer service, and personal development, launching Black Pearl Ann Arbor was a perfect opportunity to create an environment that embodies the essence of what Harry talks about; welcoming people with love, creating a great place to work, and delivering a memorable experience. In his book, Secrets of the Obvious, Harry writes of the human need for friendship and a place where people can be surrounded by “good company.” The mission of the staff at Black Pearl is to create a unique and accessible place where people can gather with friends, family, or strangers and be uplifted by the food, the service, the music, and the beautiful ambiance. Please join us for any or all of the above.

For those interested, you can find Harry’s books on Amazon!

 
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OWNER
JAN ZIEGELMAN COHEN

Jan has lived in Ann Arbor for over 40 years and is the co-owner of Black Pearl Ann Arbor with her husband Harry. Jan uses her artistic sensibilities to make the overall vibe of Black Pearl a beautiful, warm, inviting, and uplifting place for customers and staff alike. The unique ambience of Black Pearl is one of the reasons people love to hang out there and Jan is forever looking for ways to enhance that experience for everyone.