Catching up with Indy chef Erin Kem

Catching up with Indy chef Erin Kem

Indianapolis food fans might know chef Erin Kem from the dozen years she spent at the highly regarded R bistro on Mass Ave. But when that restaurant closed in 2016, she took on the challenge of cooking in a very small footprint – behind the bar at the former Cannon Ball Brewery. When that spot was purchased by Scarlet Lane Brewing, she oversaw the kitchens at two of the brewery’s locations. With her latest move, she has even more locations to cook for. Look for Chef Erin to kick off our Culinary Crossroads Spring Dinner Series in Indianapolis in April.

Catch us up on where you are now.

After working in brewery tap house kitchens for nearly six years, I left to take a position as the Culinary Director of Small Victories Hospitality Group (operators of Coat Check Coffee, Provider, Landlocked Baking, Strangebird and Chalet). I’m currently providing food to the morning programs at all of our locations, but I’m beginning to focus more on developing a dinner menu at Chalet, our newest location. 

What do you see for the future of fine dining?

I fear that there are many factors working against the future of fine dining – the obvious culprits like food cost and super thin margins, the pandemic, the labor shortage (so many skilled people leaving the industry). Additionally, the cultural shift to casual dining is hurting fine dining. The pomp and circumstance of going out for a fine-dining experience has lost its luster for many. 

How would you describe your food philosophy?

Fresh and seasonal are the best words to describe my cooking, but my philosophy is more about creating beautiful balanced food that exposes my diners (including friends and family!) to unexpected flavors. 

Have you been influenced by travels and other cultures

Always! My trip plans revolve around where and what I’m going to eat. Vietnam, Scandinavia and Morocco are some of the most notable and influential spots I’ve traveled. I also spent a year in France, so “dining” became a way of life when I wasn’t working!

What do you like to cook at home?

This winter has been full of hearty stews and soups; warmer weather means fire pit paella, homemade pizza in the Ooni oven, whole fish on the Blackstone griddle. I love cooking outside in our backyard that becomes an extension of our home.

What items are always in your refrigerator? 

Oh boy…preserved lemons, no fewer than four kinds of mustard, oat milk, eggs, pickles…LOTS of pickles.

Indy creamery features milk, cheeses and farm-to-fork restaurant

Indy creamery features milk, cheeses and farm-to-fork restaurant

Just off of West 86th Street in Indianapolis, a turn to the north on Moore Road, and you’re truly off the beaten path. The surroundings quickly change from suburban shopping centers and interstate highways to rolling farmland where historic barns dot the landscape. And if you spot a herd of brown Swiss cows, you’ll know you’ve found Traders Point Creamery, Indiana’s first certified organic dairy.

You might not see those cows right away, though, as they’re free to roam on the 112-acre farm. But they head in for milking every day, and visitors often stop in to watch.

The organic dairy, owned by Jane Elder Kunz and husband Peter “Fritz” Kunz and situated on family property, will mark its 20th anniversary this year. As they note on the creamery’s website, “We believe that the art of good cheese begins beyond the borders of our production room. It is rooted in the pastures that nourish our herd with carefully cultivated grasses for grazing and bailing. Our cows are fed a 100% grass diet so that the milk they produce is rich in nutrients, good fats and flavor.”

Those grassfed cows produce rich, creamy milk that becomes cheese, ice cream and, during the holiday season, some of the best eggnog around.

While much loved by locals, Traders Point Creamery cheeses have also gained national recognition; its spicy fromage, for example, took a first-place medal in the 2022 American Cheese Society Competition and its cottage cheese is an award winner too. The creamery’s glass packaging has won sustainability awards as well. The TPC lineup of cheeses includes an aged cheddar, an American-style blue cheese, a classic French-style tomme, and creamy washed rind and mold-ripened varieties.

You’ll find those products, as well as other local goods, at the Farm Store. Right upstairs is the Loft, a true farm-to-table restaurant that features fresh and aged cheeses produced on the farm, vegetables from the garden, hearty salads and proteins from other area farms as well. And of course, ice cream. In fact, the farm’s Dairy Bar is a popular stop itself.

Traders Point Creamery events, such as Christmas on the Farm, have become family traditions, and the farm’s scenic setting and rustic-chic barns make it popular wedding venue.   

According to the website, those barns, painstakingly relocated from several Indiana locations, were a key part of the vision for the farm. “All our barns are 1860s vintage with hand-hewn beams reflecting an era of skilled hand craftsmanship, when even the wooden pegs were carved by hand.”

The Traders Point Creamery farm store is open daily; the Loft Restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday. Farm tours are also available. Check out the website for more info.

Enjoy a taste of Indiana with our dinners and newsletter

Enjoy a taste of Indiana with our dinners and newsletter

We’re taking the show on the road! Our Culinary Crossroads team heads to Fort Wayne later this month for another On the Road dinner. As we’ve done in Evansville and in the New Albany/Jeffersonville area, our Fort Wayne dinner will bring together talented chefs to create a one-of-a-kind evening celebrating great food, great talent and great causes.

These collaborative chef dinners feature multi-course meals that never fail to wow our guests and support a variety of local causes chosen by the chefs. The dinners also bring together local food fans and supporters of Indiana’s culinary community while spotlighting businesses, farms, wineries, distilleries and breweries. We hope to see you at one of our events around the state!

We’re also exploring the state through this twice monthly On the Road newsletter. You’re reading our third issue, and we’re excited to be highlighting events, restaurants, chefs and food artisans across Indiana. Please help us spread the word and forward this to a friend!

You’ll also see some big changes to as well. We’ll be posting more articles and info on the website to keep you in the know about the vibrant food scenes in cities around the state, destination restaurants worth the drive, food sport competitions and other great foodie events. Be sure to check out our newsletter calendar, where we include events in Northern, Central and Southern Indiana – and a few restaurant suggestions as well.

We hope you’ll follow us on social media and come along for the ride – it’s going to be a tasty adventure!

Q&A with Joseph Decuis chef Marcus Daniel

Q&A with Joseph Decuis chef Marcus Daniel

Marcus Daniel is the executive chef at Joseph Decuis, a fine-dining restaurant in Roanoke, Ind. The restaurant features Wagyu beef raised on the restaurant’s nearby farm along with Mangalitsa pigs, heritage chickens and turkeys, and a wide array of vegetables. Chef Daniel, a Fort Wayne native, graduated from Ivy Tech’s culinary program and worked locally before heading to Los Angeles and New York City. He joined Joseph Decuis in 2016, returning to the area from New York City’s Michelin-starred Breslin Bar & Dining Room and John Dory Oyster Bar, where he refined his culinary skills under the tutelage of James Beard award-winning chef April Bloomfield. Chef Daniel will be cooking for the Culinary Crossroad On the Road dinner at Fort Wayne’s new Union Street Market in the Electric Works development on Feb. 21.

What’s your food philosophy?

I like cooking food that I want to eat. Seasonal as much as possible. Working with the wagyu [at Joseph Decuis] is nice. It’s a beautiful ingredient. I’m able to explore the whole cow, the whole nose to tail.

Did you always want to be a chef?

My mom told me I had to go to college, so I went to Ivy Tech, and I enrolled in the culinary department. Once I got into it, I started to like it. You’re moving, you’re sweating, you’re getting yelled at. It reminded me of some sort of sport.

Do you yell in the kitchen?

We have an open kitchen, so I can’t yell obscenities across the room, but I can speak very sternly in someone’s ear.

With the announcement that Noma will be closing in Copenhagen, we’re hearing a lot about the end of fine dining? Any thoughts?

Noma’s closing, but every three Michelin-starred restaurant in New York is bumping their prices, and it doesn’t seem like its affecting them. Is “fine dining” just the service of it? Or is fine dining the food of it? You can serve beautiful food on picnic tables.

Do you enjoy working with other chefs at collaborative dinners?

In 2019 [pre-pandemic], we were cooking with people that came from, say, Italy, from Louisiana, from Africa and other regions in the world. They would come [to the restaurant] with their recipes, they showed me how to do it, we executed it, and they spoke about it. It was eye opening to see how many foods are out there. And there’s always a street food. There’s always meat on a stick. There’s always those types of foods everywhere. That’s something we all share in common.

What do you cook at home?

During these winter months, it’s more stews, heartier food. The people I cook for at home are my wife and kids, and sometimes the kids don’t want what I want to eat, so I’m not really cooking for myself.

What’s always in your fridge?

Hot sauce for me to put on everything. It’s going on pizza, it’s going on eggs. Sandwiches too.

Reimagined former factory includes food hall, market & more

Reimagined former factory includes food hall, market & more

The former General Electric plant in Fort Wayne, which closed in 2015, has been brought back to life in spectacular fashion as Electric Works, a sprawling multi-use development that now houses a food hall and market featuring fresh and prepared foods, a bar, a co-working space, corporate offices and educational and community facilities. Additional development will include residential units as well.

Electric Works includes 18 historic buildings — the oldest built in about 1893 — with 1.2 million square feet of space. At its peak in 1944, at the height of WWII, GE employed about a third of Fort Wayne’s workforce. Now it’s home to a variety of food options, from burgers and burritos to pizza and pastries and more.

Modeled on many of the country’s most successful market halls, Union Street Market, which opened in November 2022, offers a range of regionally sourced foods and beverages in the historic former factory. Driven by its mission to support local farmers and food producers while enhancing community wellness and providing access to healthy foods, Union Street Market will feature 20-plus merchants open daily and also serve as the permanent home of the Ft. Wayne Farmers’ Market.

“Union Street Market integrates perfectly into the overall vision for Electric Works – rooted in history while striving for a future built in innovation, energy, and culture,” said Jeff Kingsbury of RTM Ventures, the development team behind Electric Works, in a release. “We’re committed to partner with food entrepreneurs who share our passion for increasing access to fresh, healthy food and providing a truly unique experience for the community, and those who appreciate the magic of an authentic market environment.”

The Market space that features soaring windows and garage doors opening onto an adjacent plaza. Union Street Market will cover more than 37,000 square feet and will provide merchants infrastructure and management services, enabling them to focus on producing and selling great food.

In addition, Electric Works has brought on nationally renowned public-market expert Ted Spitzer as director of market planning and development. Spitzer has helped many of the country’s iconic public markets, including Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market; Lexington Market in Baltimore; Eastern Market in Detroit; North Market in Columbus, Ohio; Essex Street Market in New York City; and Eastern Market in Washington D.C.  He also led the development and programming for newly developed, award-winning markets, including the Milwaukee Public Market and the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

“I’m excited to help the Electric Works team bring a world-class public market experience to Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana,” Spitzer said in the release. “This is a growing region, and it’s an ideal time for a true food hall and public market – and Electric Works will provide the perfect location for it.”

If you go: Free two-hour parking for visitors is available at the new Union Street Garage. Enter the garage from Broadway, just north of the railroad bridge at 1620 Broadway St., and follow the road toward the garage (past ongoing construction on campus). Once you park, you’ll have a short walk from the garage into the market. Walk west down the street next to the garage (away from Broadway), and turn left at the tunnel, painted blue with a mural. This will lead you to the market entrance. More information is available at