“Food is community building by its very nature,” Indianapolis chef and co-owner of Duos mobile kitchen Becky Hostetter said on the stage of The Toby theatre at the Indianapolis Museum of Art Thursday night as part of IMA’s We Are City Film Series. It was no surprise that she was speaking to a lively crowd of foodies, film lovers, and community members who had gathered for a screening of Sally Rowe’s A Matter of Taste, a documentary depicting the culinary passions, struggles, and rising career of Paul Liebrandt, chef of the Michelen two-star restaurant Corton in New York City.
Liebrandt’s vivid, Technicolor cuisine and artful plating, as well as his fierce dedication to get his cuisine right, had inspired the question of what role chefs play in the culture of a community. Joining Hostetter to answer this and other culinary questions were The Libertine’s Neal Brown and Kountry Kitchen co-owner Cynthia Wilson. “We’re definitely making progress as a food community,” Brown said. “But our food here is still very approachable to the average diner.” And while Brown later went on to say that while Indy may be 25 years away from a truly avant garde restaurant, “There are definitely more gastronomes in the city, people who experiment more and expect more as diners.
“Our city’s palate is definitely maturing,” Hostetter said, mentioning that she had just helped to open a new cafeteria at 2960 North Meridian. “I served tofu in a cafeteria in Indianapolis,” she said. “That’s progress.” Brown lauded Indiana Humanities’ Chew on This and The Harrison Center for the Arts’ Food Con as events that have help to push our local food identity. Wilson, who said rarely a day passes when she’s not at work at her restaurant, stressed the need for restaurateurs to work hard to offer diners the best product and service possible. She’s proud that her soul food eatery in a once largely African American neighborhood continues to become more diverse. “Food has no color. Service has no color,” she said.
After the panel discussion, attendees joined breakout discussions in the IMA’s Nourish Cafe facilitated by Nourish Cafe’s chef Ty Hunt, Laura Henderson of Growing Places Indy, Indy Winter Farmers Market co-founder Tyler Henderson, Indianapolis Star food writer Jolene Ketzenberger, IUPUI Food Service executive chef Nate Jackson, and IM’s own restaurant critic Terry Kirts.