Foodie: Michael Conley

AT A YOUNG AGE, Michael Conley became the designated cook for his much-older siblings. “They were always busy with classes and stuff, so I was making eggs and sandwiches for them when I was like 9 years old,” says the self-described “military kid” who was born in Georgia and lived in Vermont before settling down in Indiana. While attending traditional powwow gatherings around the state with his mother (“She’s fully Native American,” Conley says), he landed a gig cooking buffalo burgers, fry bread, and walking tacos for a food truck vendor at the age of 12. It was a humble but solid introduction to the food-service industry for the recently appointed executive chef at Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie, the Windsor Park miniplex theater and Euro-style bistro that opened in 2021.

Earlier this year, he replaced his boss, Abbi Merriss—freeing up the James Beard–lauded chef to focus on Brasserie’s sister restaurant, Bluebeard. Conley says working with Merriss influenced his own approach to running a kitchen. “She taught me that the best way to work around people is to treat them like family,” he says.

That’s a good philosophy to adopt, but Conley plans to bring his own personality to the menu as well. He wants to introduce a rotating fish, for example. He’ll always offer a pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan option. And there will be plenty of movie tie-ins. For a throwback screening of Lilo & Stitch, one of Conley’s favorites (and, coincidentally, a story about family), he created a Filipino/Hawaiian dinner. “I want to do more events where we combine the creativeness of our team with the creativeness of the movie into a whole experience,” he says.

Conley’s Favorites