Ross Katz grew up among the stainless steel countertops of restaurant kitchens. His parents met as teenagers while working at a hot-dog stand in Chicago, and when it was time to open their own place years later, they plopped their son right beside them, giving him firm instructions to “sit here while we cook.”
Now Katz is doing the cooking at his own restaurant, Rooster’s Kitchen, living the chef/owner life he’s longed for since the age of 13. “I got my first real restaurant job answering phones at a pizzeria,” says Katz, “and I would daydream about what I would do if I had my own place.”
It turns out what he would do is return to those days of sitting beside his mother in the kitchen. Her family brisket recipe anchors a menu heavy on comfort foods, including a build-your-own mac and cheese option (with add-ins like house-cured bacon, caramelized onions, and house-fried pork rinds) and old-school appetizers like the cheese ball, a blend of cream cheese, sharp cheddar, and classic spices rolled in slivered almonds and served with Ritz crackers, naturally. He also plans to get Indy diners hooked on the Chicago staple giardiniera: a relish of carrots, celery, cauliflower, olives, and sport peppers preserved in vinegar and oil and offered on everything from sandwiches to that aforementioned mac and cheese. “It’s quintessentially home for me,” he says.
(1) Chicago-style hot dogs: “Steamed poppy-seed bun with relish, onions, pickles, tomatoes, peppers, and celery salt. Ketchup is a sin.”
(2) TX bourbon (from Houston): “Straight, with just one rock.”
(3) Mexican food: “Chicharrones and carnitas are my favorite.”
(4) Fermentation: “Especially lacto-fermented pickles and sauerkrauts.”
(5) Béchamel cheese sauce: Visit IndianapolisMonthly.com to try the recipe for Katz’s preferred macaroni-and-cheese base.