“The importance of CRUX
is pure fucking FUN,” Jonathan Brooks gets straight to the point when I ask him about the pop-up series that is coming to his restaurant, Milktooth
. CRUX, the brainchild of the infamous chef Brandon Baltzley
, is “an underground, nomadic culinary collective,” and it’s making a stop in Indy on Tuesday, September 13 during its four-city tour.
Baltzley, author of Nine Lives: A Chef's Journey From Chaos to Control,
created CRUX in 2011 with three friends. He explains it almost as a way to cope with not being in the kitchen, “I became unemployable due to my big fallout with drug addicition and I needed some time to write my book since I landed the deal. At that time it didnt really seem like there was much of a community in the chef world in Chicago. So I thought starting CRUX would build that. And it did. We saw more collabs, we saw chefs who you'd never think of working together, work together — and we saw a different kitchen culture happening.”
Over the years CRUX has moved from Chicago and gone across the nation and into Canada. The troupe has done collaborations in Calgary, Pittsburgh, New York City, San Francisco and many other cities. The event, while fun for the chefs, is also a way for them to give back to communities. Baltzley says, “We even got 11 Pittsburgh chefs together and raised over 10k for Food Rev Pittsburgh
— teaching kids how to cook after school.”
The dinner will bring four high-quality chefs together to cook a one-night-only dinner for a small group of lucky guests. According to a press release, the chefs include “Brandon Baltzley and his wife and co-chef at The Buffalo Jump
in Falmouth, MA, Laura Higgins-Baltzley; Kyle Paton
of The Black Lodge
and Grown Kitchen & Cafe in Ontario, Canada; and host Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth.”
CRUX came to town earlier this year and was a huge success. According to Baltzley, “We're doing it again so we an hit the cities that fell through during the last tour. Indianapolis is happening again based on the friendship Brooks and I have made and that's why we are taking him on the road with us this time.”
Brooks, Food & Wine’s Best New Chef
, seems excited for the highly-anticipated event. “There is nothing more inspiring to me than planning and getting ready for a dinner with chefs that I look forward to cooking with, and whom I know I always have a good time around. The nervous energy leading up to the dinner is as intoxicating as the event itself and I believe the diner [that’s you!] wins twofold in this case.”
The event will be at Milktooth and offers two separate seatings for guests at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Brandon says, of the choice to host it at Milktooth again, “Milktooth is a great place to do this because Brooks completely gets it. He gets what we are trying to accomplish with this. He's been with us before, and he'll be with us going forward.”
For Jon, who will be not only at the one in Indianapolis, but also in Chicago and Detroit, it is purely an exciting experience. “It creates a FUN sense of collaboration and healthy competition among chefs in and out of town,” he says. “It gives us something to look forward to and become inspired by which leads to better food all around. Cooking in someone else's restaurant also provides a healthy opportunity to be out of your comfort zone and grow as a part of a team, which doesn't happen all the time for some of us. ”
The menu for the Indianapolis dinner features some intriguing dishes including a dish with sour carrot, white fish broth, cauliflower and dried lamb from Higgins-Baltzley and rabbit, sweet onion-corn pudding, preserved chanterelle and marigold offering from Brooks.
Jon explained the mindset behind his dish to me. “I was having a conversation with a gardener about holistic methods of keeping rabbits off their property, and they mentioned planting marigolds as a deterrent — I knew immediately I wanted to do a rabbit/marigold dish.”
You can expect this to be an unforgettable night, as Baltzley puts it, “These aren’t quiet, formal dinner parties. They are underground house parties catered by some of the region’s best chefs. The dinner is going to be a little wacky, pretty loud, but I promise I won't "pee" on the snow dessert again.”
In Jon Brooks’ words, “Sex, CRUX, and rock 'n' roll.”
The evening begins with a cocktail hour featuring Virtue Cider
and appetizers followed by a four-course dinner. Tickets are $85, gratuity is not included.
For more info and tickets click here.