Black Market Announces New Chef
Normally, when a well-known and successful chef leaves a restaurant, the gossip train rolls into town. What happened? Who was fighting? Is the restaurant on the ropes? So when word started getting around recently that Micah Frank was stepping away from Black Market, the gastropub he launched in 2011 with business partner Ed Rudisell, the most notable news was the absence of juicy, behind-the-scenes drama. Micah’s tired. Ed understands. They’re still friends. A new chef has already been hired.
But to say it’s without drama isn’t to imply it’s without sadness. Frank is a beloved member of the Indianapolis dining scene, a James Beard nominee, and the humble protagonist in the Black Market story. He put bone marrow on a dinner menu when nobody in town knew you could do such a thing, and quietly went about the business of pushing the boundaries of rustic farmhouse cuisine. He’s not a showy, look-at-me chef; his Instagram feed lets the food speak for itself. But he’s been in the game a long time, and the intense physical work of kitchen life took a toll. What does the chef want now? “Priority number-one,” says Frank, “is time off.”
Rudisell gets it. “It’s a tough gig,” he says. “We’re all having to face the fact that we’re in our forties. We have orthotics in our shoes. I’ve got arthritis in my right hand from serving, and carpel tunnel in my left. We go home at night and we’re putting braces on our feet, ankles, elbows, and wrists. Ten years ago we could play and enjoy ourselves and be reckless, but now we’re paying the price of 25 years in this business.”
Despite Frank’s role in the launch and success of Black Market, Rudisell says they never considered closing the restaurant when he leaves (Frank’s last dinner service is November 9). “At the end of the day, we all decided together—including Micah—that Black Market is Black Market,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s not about him. We’ve been cooking some of the best food in the city for eight years, and we owe it to the restaurant to keep moving forward. We’re a profitable business. It would be dumb to say ‘Well, we got tired so we closed it.’”
Rudisell turned to an up-and-comer in his own restaurant group to replace Frank. Esteban Rosas, who’s been at sister-restaurant Rook for three years as Carlos Salazar’s sous chef, will take over the Black Market kitchen. “He’s a bad-ass cook, “ said Rudisell. “He’s a great leader. He loves to teach people things, and he’s always learning himself.”
At 28, Rosas has the energy and ambition for the challenge. “It’s a good nervous,” says Rosas. “I’m really confident in my food, and I’ve always loved Black Market. The ambiance, the brick. It’s a romantic space.”
Rosas will oversee a menu and direction that was recently fine-tuned by Rudisell and Frank when they ditched lunch hours and started focusing on the flavors of the Mediterranean, especially Italy, France, and Spain, regions they fell in love with in the last several years. “It’s not really a rebranding,” says Rudisell. “But as we traveled more we realized ‘why do we keep telling the story of who we were in our 30s, and we’re in our mid-40s now? Why don’t we tell that story?’” So, goodbye house pickles and mozzarella sticks. Hello spaghettini San Marzano. (Don’t worry, the burger’s still there.) “Our wine list is looking sexy these days,” says Rudisell. “Our cocktail program’s gotten to where we’ve been striving toward for years. After eight years, to realign yourself and get excited about what you’re doing is cool. I think it will be fun. I know it will be fun.”