HOW WE STARTED
During the spring of 2018, discussions began about the opportunity to bring awareness to the emerging food scene, not only in Indianapolis, but also throughout the Hoosier state.
Among food and travel writers, Indy and Indiana had been coming of age, but had yet to reach the “tipping point” with the vast majority of Indiana residents, as well as corporate recruiters, influencers and the general public throughout the Midwest and across the country.
Indiana’s culinary landscape needed a foundational platform in order to create and communicate its ongoing narrative, leveraging four distinct pillars:
People: Stories and backgrounds on the chefs, restaurant owners, farmers, butchers, servers and others that personalize our content.
Product: Descriptions of the state’s diverse offerings such as world-renowned duck, tomato-based products, pork, beef, produce and more.
Places: Tales of restaurants in small rural towns attracting international audiences; emerging neighborhoods in revitalized cities across the state; and scenic dining establishments in Norman Rockwell type communities, among others.
Services: Information on the food manufacturers, processors and distributors leading the way with emerging technologies and helping to ensure that consumers around the world could have access to safe, healthy and environmentally-sound food supplies.
We embarked on the journey to have Indiana recognized not only as “the crossroads of America”, but also as the “Culinary Crossroads of America”, featuring a culinary landscape of people, products, places and services which makes Indiana the preferred destination for people to live, work and play.
WHERE WE’VE BEEN
With our vision in place, attention turned to creating stories about one or more of our four pillars. The first opportunity was creation of “Team Indiana”, a group of talented Indiana home cooks and chefs who were making their mark in the world of food sport competition.
Food sport competition may have started with state fair pie competitions, burger battles, and BBQ competitions, but an event known as the World Food Championships (WFC) had taken “food sport competition” to an entirely new level. Entering into it’s 8th year of competition in 2018, the WFC attracted nearly 500 teams from over 42 states culminating in over 1,500 home cooks, chefs and professional cooking teams coming together to compete in 10 food categories for over $100,000 in prize money!
Recognizing the opportunity to highlight the talented “people” making up Team Indiana, Culinary Crossroads reached out to both public and private sector leadership to underwrite its first initiative to bring awareness to Team Indiana member’s backgrounds, their preparation for their first WFC event and the onsite food sport competition.
Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch provided tremendous leadership and shepherded in support from both Indiana Tourism and Indiana Grown. Additional underwriters included Indiana Kitchen, Cluster Truck, Red Gold, Piazza Produce, The Agency Worldwide and MConnect Group.
WFC Final Table Indy
Team Indiana competed at the highest level with three of Team Indiana competitors reaching the World Food Championship finals in their respective categories. Although we didn’t bring home a championship trophy we did bring home our second Culinary Crossroads Initiative, the WFC Final Table.
The Final Table Indy featured 10 category winners from the World Food Championships competing for the title of World Food Champion and a $100,000 payday! In addition to the live weekend competition, the Final Table Indy was also produced as a reality TV show for “The Cooking Channel”.
Once again, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch provided tremendous leadership and facilitated our outreach to presenting sponsors Visit Indy, Sysco and Ivy Tech Community College. Additional support was also secured from Red Gold, Maple Leaf Farms and MConnect Group.
Although the originally scheduled May 2020 Final Table was cancelled due to the pandemic, Culinary Crossroads leaders were able to successfully activate the event in August of 2020 at the Ivy Tech Culinary Center. In keeping with all local and state health guidelines, the event and the overall initiative was well received and lauded for demonstrating the ability to bring energy and upbeat stories during the turbulent and challenging times of the pandemic.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
Our third initiative, Culinary Crossroads 2021 Spring Dinner Series, presented by Ivy Tech Community College, is currently underway. This series features 10 talented Indiana-based chefs many of which are leading the rebirth of our culinary landscape coming out of the pandemic.
The 6-week dinner series begins on April 7th and continues every Wednesday evening through May 12th. Each week a different chef pairing will deliver a unique dining experience for our attendees.
Chef Teams Line Up
April 7 – Neal Brown and Ben Hardy
April 14 – Tony Hanslits and Regina Mehallick
April 21 – Karl Benko and Chris Liechti
April 28 – Steven Oakley and Carlos Salazar
May 5 – Jonathan Brooks and Esteban Rosas
May 12 – Culinary Crossroads Mystery Finale
Portions of our revenue will be utilized to compensate participating chefs, make contributions to a “cause of choice” for each of the 10 chefs and provide support for current and future Culinary Crossroads initiatives.
WHERE WE’RE GOING
With the pandemic fortunately coming to a close, Culinary Crossroads will build upon the momentum of the dinner series to grow our partnerships, expand our efforts in food sport competition and take our foundational efforts to the next level. We are currently finalizing our plans for a major content creation initiative that will strengthen our platform and expand our reach throughout the Midwest and around the country.
Culinary Crossroads will shine a spotlight on the people, products, places and services that define Indiana’s culinary landscape and help make Indiana the place where people want to live, work and play. In the course of our journey, Culinary Crossroads will create content and initiatives that amplify the voices that support and represent our cause.
Watch for announcements later this year. For news and updates, join us on our new social media pages.