After 12 seasonswith the Lions, three Pro Bowl selections and a team record 95 1‚ÅÑ2 sacks,Robert Porcher should have found the notion of hanging up his size-15 cleatseasy to contemplate. But true peace of mind didn't come until he was sure hehad something else he could successfully tackle. During a preseason game in2004, before his 13th season was to begin, the 6' 3", 275-pound defensiveend overheard some visiting Steelers raving about a Detroit restaurant. Havingopened an eatery just months earlier, Porcher was all ears. "They weresaying stuff like, 'Man, we were at this place last night and it wasgreat,'" Porcher recalls, "even gabbing about the dishes they had."He listened more closely and to his delight realized they were discussing hisown downtown dinner spot, Seldom Blues. Reassured, he announced his NFLretirement shortly thereafter. "You have to understand," he says of theSteelers' chatter. "We were in a game!"
A 37-year-olddivorced father of three, Porcher is the co-owner of a trio of Motown's finestrestaurants. Seldom Blues, a 300-seat supper-and-jazz club in the iconicRenaissance 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. Amongits regulars are John Legend, Rasheed Wallace and Stevie Wonder, who was sopleased by two straight nights of Seldom meals last summer that he took thestage for an impromptu set. Porcher followed with the Detroit Breakfast House& Grill, which Hour Detroit magazine named one of the city's 10 best newrestaurants for 2005; its soulful fare, like jalape√±o cheese grits, wasinspired by Porcher's South Carolina roots. And last year he opened the GrandCity 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 fastversion."
Porcher works onalmost every aspect of his restaurants. He schedules weekly cooking lessonswith his executive chef, and his desktop is scattered with restaurantpromotional tapes, wine catalogs and the demo CDs of prospective jazz acts forthe bar at Seldom Blues, which Esquire named one of America's best. He's evenlent a hand in design elements, his pride and joy being the curving bar atSeldom that looks out on the aqua river. On a recent spring evening, as Sadeplayed on the stereo and the dinner crowd trickled out, Porcher bellied up fora nightcap. Minutes later he had a glass of wine in his hand and a lady visitorby his side as the moonlight danced on the water.
Porcher, who made his name on the Detroit defensive line, didn't retire untilhis first eatery took off.