Ask a Foodie: Which chefs do other chefs in Michiana admire most?


By: Geoff Lesar

Jason Bryant/Flavor 574

In the culinary world, as with other art forms, chefs often look to their peers in the industry for inspiration in the never-ending quest for innovation.

Ask a Foodie answers reader-submitted questions regarding all things food, nutrition and cooking.

This week, readers wanted to know: Which chef or cook’s food do other chefs in the area admire most?

For some, grandma’s cooking serves as the compass for culinary success. Others look up to nationally acclaimed chefs.

We caught up with a few local chefs to find out who their idols are.

Jason Brown
One Ten Craft Meatery, Warsaw

“Since I was about 15, I’ve been a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. Honestly, when I was 15, one of his books was one of the first books I ever read. I admire the passion that he exudes.”

“Locally, I’m gonna have to go with Scott Woods. He kind of took me as a really young kid and showed me the ropes of what food was about and why we, who need to work with food, are gluttons for punishment.”

Scott Woods
Noa Noa Wood Grill & Sushi Bar, Warsaw

“From my personal standpoint, I have a Chicago restaurant that I’m amazed by every time I go – we’ve been going for five or six years now – and that’s Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat. It surprises me every time I go in there, you know, her flavor combinations … day in and day out. I’m extremely impressed by that.”

“There’s a lady that makes homemade tamales at Winona’s San Jose grocery store on Saturday mornings that I think are the best on the planet. I stop in there on almost a regular basis on Saturday mornings. She does a jalapeno and cheese tamale that’s the best — it’s usually my lunch.”

Eamonn McParland
Cafe Navarre, South Bend

“Chefs like Thomas Keller, like Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert. But also kind of like newer modern guys like Grant Achatz and people like that. I like the guy from Noma too, over in Denmark, and Ferran Adria from El Bulli — the real big name guys I admire. I just have a respect for what they do.” 

“I remember picking up Thomas Keller’s ‘French Laundry Cookbook’ when I was a little bit younger and it kind of helped me realize that this is what I wanted to do. And then I’m looking at the Alinea cookbook and I’m looking at the Noma cookbook and looking at what all these chefs are doing. They still inspire me to this day.” 

Mike Cross
Antonio’s Italian Ristorante, Elkhart

“Coming up through the ranks, I really always appreciated local chefs who – in a small area like our area in northern Indiana and central Indiana, where I started cooking – chefs who were really trying to stay true to the community and starting the whole farm to table movement. I can’t come up with any specific names, but just all the chefs that kind of started this farm to table movement we find ourselves in, in this area, now.”

“We have so many great local farmers, great local producers and I’m not sure whether they were really noticed. I think local chefs have done a great job of showcasing those kinds of things. I like the whole idea of our local restaurants getting great products from our local producers, local farmers and then showcasing those things to our community.”

Caleb France
Cerulean, Lake Winona

Paul Kahan in Chicago. His concepts are always so strong and he’s got so many great things going on up there. As kind of a food entrepreneur, (he’s) just so solid. We see what they’re doing in Chicago and it’s just inspiring for us here in Indiana. To achieve that much diversity, I think, would be a really good thing.”

“It’s not uber-local, but Aaron Butts in Roanoke is an amazing guy and a really talented and I think we’re really lucky to have him in our region, for sure.” 

Robert Pitts
Pitts BBQ, South Bend

“My grandmom. There is no chef here in South Bend that taught me anything. Everything I learned, I learned from my grandmom. It was a Creole style of cooking in cast iron skillets and open fire, you know, wood-burning stoves.”

“What fascinated me about the way my grandmom cooked was that she didn’t use any measuring spoons, she just used the inside of her hand and measured like that. The first time I tried to do it, I made mine too saucy. And she said, ‘You’ve got to learn the spices first, grandson. Junior, you gotta learn the spices.’”

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