On the Road Again in Southern Indiana

On the Road Again in Southern Indiana

Culinary Crossroads is heading back to Southern Indiana for our third On the Road Dinner in the New Albany area. The collaborative chef dinner, which begins with a complimentary cocktail hour, is scheduled for May 21 and takes place at Huber Winery’s Plantation Hall in Borden, Ind. Presented by Go SoIN with statewide support from Ivy Tech Community College, the dinner will feature a fabulous multi-course menu created by some of the area’s top chefs, with each course paired with Huber wines.

This year’s featured chefs are Logan Hostettler of The 1894 Lodge, Liz Martino of Mesa Kids Cooking School and Vanessa Felix-Goode of V’s Gourmet to Go and Prosser Career Education Center. The chefs will work together to craft a one-of-a-kind menu that highlights area products and ingredients. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

Promoting the people, products, places and services of Indiana’s culinary community is part of our mission here at Culinary Crossroads. The On the Road dinners, which take place around the state, offer a way to do just that.

“The On the Road dinner series is very important to us,” said Culinary Crossroads director Larry Dickerson, who launched the organization in 2018 with the support of Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, whose office oversees tourism, agriculture and rural affairs. “So often, statewide programs end up being Indy-centric. We are committed to the fact that this is a statewide initiative.”

Culinary Crossroads has presented On the Road dinners in Evansville, Fort Wayne, Terre Haute and Elkhart County as well as in the New Albany area, with more to come.

In Indianapolis, our Spring Dinner Series, a four-week series of collaborative chef dinners that take place on Mondays at Highland Golf & Country Club, runs through April 29 and features Indy chefs paired with chefs from around the state. Tickets for the April 29 dinner, featuring Indy chefs Ryan Nelson of Late Harvest Kitchen and Patrick Russ of Newfields as well as chef Jeff Ford of J. Ford’s Black Angus in Terre Haute, are available on Eventbrite.

Spring Dinner Series to feature top chefs in Indy and around the state

Spring Dinner Series to feature top chefs in Indy and around the state

The Culinary Crossroads Spring Dinner Series returns for its fourth year and kicks off April 8 at Highland Golf & Country Club in Indianapolis.

Launched in 2021, the dinner series has become our centerpiece event as we raise funds for the Greg Hardesty Scholarship Fund at Ivy Tech Community College. The dinner series runs for four Mondays, April 8-29, and each week features three chefs – plus a featured pastry chef – who collaborate on a fabulous four-course menu, complete with wine pairings.

This year our theme is Onward and Upward, and in addition to spotlighting top Indianapolis chefs, we’ll also be featuring chefs from around the state. The dinners include a complimentary cocktail hour with delightful appetizers from each chef as well as a sparkling wine, a signature cocktail and a local beer.

Here’s the 2024 Spring Dinner Series chef lineup, with desserts each week provided by pastry chef and Ivy Tech instructor Hattie Shoemaker:

  • April 8 — Featuring chef Chris Eley of Smoking Goose, chef Toby Moreno of Highland Golf & Country Club and chef Marcus Daniel of Bridgeport in Fort Wayne.
  • April 15 — Featuring chef Tracey Couillard of Public Greens, chef Eli Laidlaw of The Alexander and chef Charisa Perkins of Copper House in Evansville.
  • April 22 — Featuring chef Alan Sternberg of Bluebeard, chef Tyler Shortt of Tinker Street and chef Ming Pu of Brooklyn & the Butcher, The Exchange and Outcast in New Albany.
  • April 29 — Featuring chef Ryan Nelson of Late Harvest Kitchen, chef Patrick Russ of Newfields and chef Jeff Ford of J. Ford’s Black Angus in Terre Haute.

Tickets are $350 for two; tables seat six and are $1,000. Tickets are available at Eventbrite; to purchase for the whole series, or to arrange for seating with other ticketholders, please email info@culinarycrossroads.org.

Chefs honored at ACF awards gala

Chefs honored at ACF awards gala

Chefs honored at ACF awards gala
Culinary Crossroads was honored to attend the recent Presidents Gala of the Indianapolis chapter of the American Culinary Federation. The event, held at the Hotel Carmichael in Carmel, recognized the talent and dedication of numerous area chefs. We’d like to congratulate Indy ACF president Matt Jarson and Hotel Carmichael chef Jason Crouch on a wonderful event, and give a big shout out to the Team Indiana award winners

Congratulations to Cindy Hawkins, chef professional of the year; Brady Foster, chef of the year; and Jenni Babcock Schouppe, pastry chef of the year.

We’d also like to thank Paramount Schools of Excellence CEO Tommy Reddicks for presenting a check for nearly $4,000 to chef Jeff Bricker of Ivy Tech Community College for the Greg Hardesty Scholarship Fund. Through the Kelly Wensing Community Fund, the Culinary Crossroads Supper Club at Paramount has raised more than $12,000 for the scholarship, which honors the late chef Greg Hardesty.

Charter school CEO on teaching kids to cook and supporting the community

Charter school CEO on teaching kids to cook and supporting the community

Tommy Reddicks, CEO of Paramount Schools of Excellence, launched an innovative middle school cooking program in Indianapolis last year, and a team of his Jr. Chef Academy students won first place at the World Food Championships in Dallas in November. But that’s not the only way the innovative CEO uses food to enrich the school’s community. A fund in honor of his late wife helps support the cooking program as well as the school’s Eastside neighborhood, and a supper club dinner series raises funds for that as well as for the Chef Greg Hardesty Scholarship at Ivy Tech Community College. We talked with Tommy about food, community and what’s in his fridge.

Tell us about the Jr. Chef Academy and how it fits with the Paramount Schools of Excellence mission.

The Jr. Chef Academy exists to solve food insecurity at its source: our children. Designed in partnership with Paramount Schools of Excellence and the Kelly Wensing Community Fund, the program provides real-world experience in the culinary arts for middle school students between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. By creating an exciting educational curriculum coursed over 17 weeks of classes each year, culminating with a local food competition (The Perfect Bite Championships) and qualification for the World Food Championships, students in the program know from the start that they have the potential for greatness. This adds a sense of hope and accomplishment to the weekly process. Along the way, students collaborate with local chefs and participate in local culinary events, which sets the tone for a potential career in the culinary arts. These elements align nicely with the service industry and community focus of the Kelly Wensing Community Fund and with the mission of Paramount Schools of Excellence.

What were some of the kids’ reactions to the idea of learning to cook? Did they take to it quickly?

In the beginning, students are often excited, but engagement really varies. But by the third or fourth week, you can really see the lights turn on. They begin to figure out the lessons’ cadence and build bridges from the weekly techniques being taught. After completing this initial 10-week course, the students become autonomous cooks, capable of accomplishing kitchen basics while strategizing their approach for the upcoming competitions.

What were some of the challenges faced?

Attendance is always an ongoing challenge. Many of our students rely on their parents for transportation, and many of our parents have ongoing challenges or conflicts that make consistent attendance hard. So program attrition is an ongoing factor for each year’s academy. The enrollment numbers allowed for the academy each spring are always inflated so that midseason losses won’t dramatically impact program outcomes. Funding is another challenge for the program. With such rich outcomes and such a worthy focus, we’re confident that the program can be run as a zero-cost enterprise. But with the program only in its second year, the right benefactors and partners are still being vetted.

Your students had a big win at the 2023 World Food Championships. What was that like?

The program was designed around the World Food Championships calendar. The program was launched with an agreement from the World Food Championships to create additional junior talent for the WFC Jr. division. So our students in the inaugural year knew that a golden ticket to the World Food Championships was on the table. This added measurable excitement and momentum to the program. But we never would have guessed that one of our teams would win the world championships. This was a fairy tale ending to the program’s “proof of concept” year.

The Culinary Crossroads Supper Club starts up again soon; tell us how that came about with Kelly’s Fund and efforts to support the local food community.

The new supper club launches this April with five six-course events, starting with Chef Samir Mohammed and Chef Youseff Boudarine on April 21. These supper clubs came to be as a response to the pandemic. They were initially dinners called, “Bring Back the Chefs.” These dinners supported chefs through the pandemic, but as the pandemic came to a close, we lost Kelly Wensing – who was instrumental in the ongoing effort. Much to our surprise, thousands of dollars in donations came in from a Meal Train designed after her passing, and the Kelly Wensing Community Fund was born out of those donations. Kelly was so passionate about community and the service industry, so we decided to continue her legacy in the form of the Culinary Crossroads Supper Club at Paramount Schools. These supper clubs were initially run by Paramount Schools and are now run by the Kelly Wensing Community Fund.

What are some of your personal favorite restaurants around Indy or around the state? Any hidden gems people should try?

I’m always quick to answer Oakleys Bistro as one of my favorite restaurants in Indianapolis. Then it’s Beholder and Bluebeard. Outside of town, I’m a sucker for wagyu, so I love to visit Joseph Decuis in Roanoke, Ind. I also can’t say enough about the work Chef Eamonn McParland is doing at Roseliliy in South Bend. Still, my favorite way to eat out is a tasting menu – and these experiences are often found during pop-ups like Chef’s Night Out. Anytime I can find a pop-up dining experience, I’m excited.

Do you cook much yourself? What are some items that are always in your fridge?

I cook enough to be dangerous in the kitchen. I am definitely a surf and turf guy in the kitchen and know my way around cuts of meat. I also enjoy making cheese and have turned my hobby of cheesemaking into a school-based program with Paramount. Our schools have multiple herds of goats with legitimate cheesemaking onsite. So with that ongoing legacy, you’ll always find my fridge full of cheese. I’m pursuing my sommelier certification, so there are always some good charcuterie options and a nearby bottle for pairing!

Next On the Road Dinner to Feature Elkhart County Chefs

Next On the Road Dinner to Feature Elkhart County Chefs

It’s time to hit the road! Culinary Crossroads is gearing up for more On the Road collaborative chef dinners around the state in 2024.

In March, we head north to Elkhart County, where three of the area’s top chefs will come together for one fabulous meal. Chef Sylvia Awald of West on Warren in Middlebury, chef Chris Janowsky of Artisan in Elkhart and chef Robert Standen of Ruhe 152 in Nappanee will be collaborating on the March 26 dinner.

In conjunction with presenting sponsor Ivy Tech Community College and the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau, our On the Road dinner will take place at the Elcona Country Club. Guests will enjoy a complimentary cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres created by the chefs before being seated for their multi-course dinner, which also includes wine pairings.

To reserve a table, please email info@culinarycrossroads.org.