After 12 seasons
with the Lions, three Pro Bowl selections and a team record 95 1?2 sacks,
Robert Porcher should have found the notion of hanging up his size-15 cleats
easy to contemplate. But true peace of mind didn't come until he was sure he
had something else he could successfully tackle. During a preseason game in
2004, before his 13th season was to begin, the 6' 3", 275-pound defensive
end overheard some visiting Steelers raving about a Detroit restaurant. Having
opened an eatery just months earlier, Porcher was all ears. "They were
saying stuff like, 'Man, we were at this place last night and it was
great,'" Porcher recalls, "even gabbing about the dishes they had."
He listened more closely and to his delight realized they were discussing his
own downtown dinner spot, Seldom Blues. Reassured, he announced his NFL
retirement shortly thereafter. "You have to understand," he says of the
Steelers' chatter. "We were in a game!"
divorced father of three, Porcher is the co-owner of a trio of Motown's finest
restaurants. Seldom Blues, a 300-seat supper-and-jazz club in the iconic
Renaissance Center, with a breathtaking view of the Detroit River and Windsor,
Ont., was named Restaurant of the Year in 2006 by the Detroit Free Press. Among
its regulars are John Legend, Rasheed Wallace and Stevie Wonder, who was so
pleased by two straight nights of Seldom meals last summer that he took the
stage for an impromptu set. Porcher followed with the Detroit Breakfast House
& Grill, which Hour Detroit magazine named one of the city's 10 best new
restaurants for 2005; its soulful fare, like jalape�o cheese grits, was
inspired by Porcher's South Carolina roots. And last year he opened the Grand
City Grille, a casual dinner spot in the historic Fisher Building.
"Robert's a guy who, once he's involved, wants to learn everything,"
says business partner Frank Taylor. "And he doesn't want the fast
Porcher works on
almost every aspect of his restaurants. He schedules weekly cooking lessons
with his executive chef, and his desktop is scattered with restaurant
promotional tapes, wine catalogs and the demo CDs of prospective jazz acts for
the bar at Seldom Blues, which Esquire named one of America's best. He's even
lent a hand in design elements, his pride and joy being the curving bar at
Seldom that looks out on the aqua river. On a recent spring evening, as Sade
played on the stereo and the dinner crowd trickled out, Porcher bellied up for
a nightcap. Minutes later he had a glass of wine in his hand and a lady visitor
by his side as the moonlight danced on the water.