July Foodie: Aaron Butts

Beloved former Joseph Decuis chef Aaron Butts strikes out on his own.
If James Beard–nominated chef Aaron Butts broke your heart when he parted ways with small-town gourmet gem Joseph Decuis in Roanoke last year, dry your tears. Butts and business partner Sean Richardson are keeping the glow at The Golden, a new restaurant and bar for adventurous eaters in Fort Wayne.

Born and raised in the northeastern Indiana city, Butts spent a couple of years in Indianapolis working at Del Frisco’s and Crystal Catering before he joined farm-to-fork pioneer Joseph Decuis in 2000. With no formal culinary training to speak of, Butts says he learned everything he knows on the job—first and foremost, an unwavering reverence for ingredients, animals, farmers, producers, and staff. “I started cooking in high school and never looked back,” he says. “I fell in love with the culture of the kitchen.”

“My cooking style has always been simple, clean, and uncomplicated.”

Over the past two years or so, The Golden found its footing as a craft-cocktail pop-up operation. The open-plan eatery in Ash Skyline Plaza (featuring a gorgeous, backlit wine wall as well as a heated patio and plenty of “Party on Wayne” T-shirts) adds of-the-moment cuisine like vegetable-focused dishes, fermented items, and charcuterie made from local meats. Butts plans to butcher whole animals in-house.

“My cooking style has always been simple, clean, and uncomplicated—treat the ingredients with respect and let them shine for what they are,” Butts says. “I’ll choose to braise over sous vide every time.”


His Favorite Things: