Where the Chefs Eat
Most days and nights, they are in the hot kitchen.
They’re cooking up everything from steaks and pizzas to cakes and pastries. They’re the ones who make our mouths water, our tastebuds sing and our bellies expand.
But chefs like to eat, too.
And they like to go out, just like us.
Whether it’s a special date night, a time to celebrate, the need for comfort or the want for some service — chefs have their favorites and go-to places.
So, without further ado, the following is a sampling of where some chefs like to eat when they can kick back outside of the kitchen.
Where he cooks: 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza
Where he eats: Henry’s
Address and phone: 536 W. Main Street, 260.426.0531
Fare: Burgers, steaks, fish, nachos
Matt Rogers grew up around food — literally.
If you’re old enough and have lived here long enough, you might remember Rogers Market grocery stores dotting the city. The name is not a coincidence. Matt Rogers belongs to that Rogers family, and when he tells you how his family always cooked food together, how they had an indoor grill and indoor fryer in their kitchen, it’s not really a surprise the owner and executive chef of 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza became who he is.
“Whenever we made burgers, we cut our own fries and made those ourselves,” said Rogers.
So, when Rogers goes out, he appreciates that he can tell things are made there, and not put together out of a freezer or assembled from several bags of whatever. And whenever he goes out, there’s a good bet he’ll end up at Henry’s
Rogers discovered the long-time downtown staple — it opened when there was a downtown, thrived when there was no downtown and is being rediscovered now that there is a downtown again — in his early 20s with friends who worked in theater. He’d go on Saturday nights back when they had all-you-could-eat fried fish.
“Back then, I could eat, eat, eat,” he said.
Rogers played soccer at IPFW while studying business. Afterward, he headed off to Johnson & Wales University in Denver for culinary school. While there, he worked at Denver’s Adams Mark Hotel, serving up to 4,000 diners at a time. When he was promoted to sous chef, he knew he was doing what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Rogers came home and landed a job at Joseph Decuis in Roanoke before opening 800 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza, where customers can get hand-stretched pizzas on hand-made dough with sausage made from scratch along with local pork and chicken.
But the taste of Henry’s fried fish stayed with him along the way.
Whether he’s taking his wife out or going out with friends, Henry’s has become a regular place for him. The lighting is dim — “I like it a little dark. Chefs, we’re all a little dark on the inside,” he said — and he’s become so much of a regular the bartenders and waitresses know him by name.
And the fish… that fish… Battered with herbs and spices, made on-site. It is a Henry’s fan favorite, has been for ages, and even chefs can taste — and respect — the effort put into the food.
“You can tell they actually cook the food there, there is no doubt,” said Rogers. “When you become a chef, you can pick those things out.”
Where she bakes: Hetty Arts Pastry
Where she eats: teds market
Address and phone: 12628 Coldwater Road, 888.260.0351
Fare: Beer, wine, coffee, pretzels, sandwiches, brunch
When Hetty Arts thinks about growing up in the southern part of the Netherlands, she conjures images of a tight-knit community which may be a little more boisterous than a typical gathering stateside.
When she first visited the beer hall at teds market, she found a sense of the home she left at age 13.
“It’s a fun and vibrant environment,” said Arts, who operates Hetty Arts Pastry.
Opened in 2015 as a neighborhood grocery store on Coldwater Road, the original plan for the market was to have a wine bar in the basement. Beer taps were added shortly thereafter, but by 2017 the business evolved to the point where the groceries were gone and replaced by a full restaurant, beer hall, wine bar and coffee bar.
The beer hall offers 17 craft beer taps, while founder and baker Brian Hench and his team cook up delicious pretzels, pizzas and sandwiches. Depending on the season and what’s available, there are also traditional breakfast items served for brunch every Sunday, though they come with a teds twist.
“They do such an amazing job of incorporating bread,” said Arts. “The breads are the best in town.”
And knowing when something is truly baked well is something Arts knows a thing or two about.
She was introduced to pastries while growing up in the Netherlands and, after coming to America with her parents, graduated with a degree in baking and pastry arts from the Midwest Culinary Institute in Cincinnati.
Arts spent time in New York City, Chicago and Joseph Decuis in Roanoke honing her craft before opening her own pastry kitchen.
She’s made a name for herself around town with her doughnuts — her little pastry truck is a staple downtown during the summer — but Arts also makes a plethora of other desserts and even cakes for weddings and special occasions.
With her business taking off here, Arts said she does not have a lot of time to travel and has not been back to the Netherlands. Her parents, though, still cook traditional foods and continue to speak Dutch at home.
When she’s not visiting them, though, she can always find a slice of her childhood at teds.
“It’s my favorite spot in Fort Wayne and reminds me of those memories,” she said.
GRACE KELLY MAY
Where she bakes: GK Baked Goods
Where she eats: The Green Frog Inn
Address and phone: 820 Spring Street, 260.203.4045
Fare: Pub grub and famous frog legs
She’s always had a sweet tooth.
And that sweet tooth has been guiding Grace Kelly May’s career since she was a kid.
It’s what led her to take cooking classes at the Anthis Career Center, which fueled her fire to graduate from the culinary arts program at Kendall College in Chicago. Then, her early career experiences ran the gamut from plating dozens of desserts at a time to working as an executive pastry chef at a hotel to constructing pastries with tweezers at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
At seven months pregnant, though, a new craving overtook her.
“I’ve been eating chicken wings non-stop,” said May, the owner GK Baked Goods, a boutique bakery which operates out of downtown’s Junk Ditch Brewing Company. “I can’t get enough chicken wings.”
And when May really has that hankering for chicken wings, she goes to what has been a familiar spot for many a Fort Waynian for decades: The Green Frog Inn.
It’s been around since 1933, nestled into what has traditionally been the heart of the city’s German-Catholic community at the corner of Spring and Sherman streets. Once owned by Cindy Henry — Mayor Tom Henry’s wife — May’s stepbrother took it over a few years ago and gave her a job serving and bartending before Junk Ditch and GK Baked Goods came to be.
It may be a little dark and a little cramped, but that’s just the way May and her husband, Junk Ditch owner Jack May, like it. “When we go out, we like where you can hide away,” she said.
The chicken wings at the Frog are May’s food of choice these days. She describes them as perfectly crispy smothered in what is a perfect Buffalo sauce, and May said she’s been gobbling them up on at least a weekly basis.
“The Buffalo sauce is what’s getting me,” she said.
Don’t worry, though. May has not lost her sweet tooth.
She’s still baking desserts galore at GK Baked Goods, where everything is made in-house, including the bread. And she’s always looking at creating new desserts to delight people looking for the perfect blend of sugar and cake.
Perfect, too, is always the goal, no matter what she’s making.
“I have a bread pudding on right now,” she said. “I want this to be the best bread pudding ever.”
Where he cooks: Catablu Grille
Where he eats: Saigon Restaurant
Address and phone: 2006 S. Calhoun Street, 260.456.8550
Fare: Authentic Vietnamese food, pho, noodles, rice plates
There’s just something about that first taste.
Tony Valenza came to Fort Wayne on business two decades ago. He had never been here and barely knew anything about the city — check that, he didn’t even know where Fort Wayne was — but found himself going from building to building, from site to site, scouting out locations for a possible new restaurant location being opened by the managers of a Florida restaurant where he worked at the time.
At lunch, he dug into an egg roll at the Saigon Restaurant on the city’s south side.
“They have the best egg rolls I’ve ever had,” said Valenza.
Twenty years later, he still visits the cash-only Vietnamese joint regularly, and it’s the main place he recommends for anyone visiting the city. Try any of the pho (pronounced “fuh”) soups, he’ll tell you, but especially the roasted duck and noodle. That is his favorite, though you can’t go wrong with any of them.
“I would’ve never imagined finding a place like that in Fort Wayne,” he said.
And the man knows food.
Valenza got his first restaurant gig at a pizzeria when he was 15. He knew right then he wanted to work with food for the rest of his life. He enjoyed cooking large meals for his family and attended Florida Culinary Institute of West Palm Beach. Valenza spent most of the next decade garnering acclaim in south Florida.
When Florida restaurant managers Mike and Maureen Catalogna decided to open up their own restaurant in Fort Wayne, they brought Valenza with them. In 1998, Catablu opened its doors on Broadway at what used to be Cinema Blue.
Re-dubbed Catablu Grille, the eatery has since moved to Covington Plaza on the city’s southwest side, but Valenza still serves as executive chef. The menu includes everything from cauliflower stir fry and lobster mac and cheese to various fish, steaks and salads.
Still, when he wants to sit for a meal, the Saigon is his top choice.
It may look dated — a gargantuan aluminum sign outside looks straight out of the 1960s, and peeling wall paper up front and wood paneling show its age — but the food, especially the broth for the different preparations of pho, keep the place hopping.
Don’t expect quiet, especially around lunch, when the Saigon is full. If pho is not your thing, there are so many more options that will sate your taste of Vietnamese fare.
“It’s truly an authentic restaurant,” said Valenza.
Where he cooks: The Oyster Bar
Where he eats: Asakusa Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Address and phone: 6224 Lima Road, 260.490.6888; 6401 W. Jefferson Boulevard, 260.432.9888
Fare: Sushi and hibachi
Most days and nights, you can find Paul Liming on his feet.
The Oyster Bar, which has existed in some form since 1888, is one of those unique restaurants that gives you peak into the kitchen. Sit at the bar, and you might see Liming dealing with the flames coming off a pan. Go find a table in the back room — which means you walk through the kitchen — you might accidentally bump into him as he’s seasoning a rack of lamb or ribs.
Occasionally you might see him leaning against the bar, but soon enough someone will place an order, and he’ll head back to the grill.
“When I go out, what I really like is being waited on,” said Liming. “I just want to be waited on.”
A veteran of the Fort Wayne restaurant scene who cut his chops at Joseph Decuis, Liming is a regular at the north-side Asakusa Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar.
He’s been drawn to Asian food since, when much younger, he spent some time in Chicago where his aunt would cook Korean dishes. To this day he tries to incorporate some of those elements into his cuisine at the Oyster Bar, whether it’s whipping up some Thai duck soup or adding some noodles and sauce to various fish specials.
But when Liming is looking to go out, whether he’s trying to impress a date or wanting to decompress after a long day, sushi hits the spot. He discovered Asakusa more than a decade ago and has been a regular ever since, getting to know the staff and the cuisine well.
“I just feel real comfortable there,” he said.
The dragon roll — shrimp tempura wrapped in seaweed, avocado and tempura crumb topped with eel — is a must-have. For those wanting a little extra spice, the fire dragon roll has spicy tuna and green onions inside.
Fan of salmon? Liming recommends the salmon California roll. Need spice and simplicity? The spicy tuna will do the trick.
“They have a lot you can choose from depending on what you’re in the mood for,” said Liming.
While it’s not quite the same, Asakusa does hearken back a bit to a time when Liming could smell Korean food being cooked up in his aunt’s kitchen — a scent that’s stayed with him ever since, and which steers what he likes to cook and eat today.
Date Night Destinations
Chefs go out for those special date nights — just like regular people. Here are their favorites.
“p1″>“Date nights are meant to be fun, right? You get all dressed up and go out to spend some great quality time together. HT2 just opened up this summer, and you can’t find a cozier, cuter spot to sip on a really tasty cocktail and have a bite while you’re there, too. Perfect for a date.” — Hetty Arts
“I would say The Golden or Tolon — somewhere where you have that kind of service and where it’s more of a special environment.” — Grace Kelly May
Order A Little TLC
Chefs work long days — seriously long days. They get tired. They crave old familiar stand-by meals. When they seek comfort food, here’s where the chefs go.
“I tend to eat things a little more exotic, a little more herb and spice-based foods. I like Baan Thai and get their curry. I also enjoy eating Indian food at Taj Mahal. Sometimes I’ll even get tacos at the original George’s International.” — Matt Rogers
“800 Degrees. I enjoy the pizzas quite a bit.” — Tony Valenza.
“Bahn Mi Barista is my go-to spot to reboot food-wise. Super fragrant broths, fresh herbs and veggies, and milk teas in more flavors than imaginable. The owners of these two local spots do such an outstanding job nailing this type of food!” — Hetty Arts
Chefs As Chaperones
If they have someone who is visiting, here are the spots chefs take guests to get the flavor of the city.
“I’d say The Golden. I worked with those guys and they make some really great food. And the cocktails are really great, too.” — Paul Liming
“First to come to mind are The Golden and Junk Ditch.” — Matt Rogers
“For this type of occasion, I love going to The Golden. The food is wonderful — and lets not forget local. The chefs are tremendously dedicated to their craft, and the restaurant as a whole exudes a great sense of attention to detail. What better way to introduce newbies to Fort Wayne?” — Hetty Arts
Where the Chefs Cook
10020 Lima Road, 260.490.0111, 800degrees.net
Hetty Arts Pastry, behind the locally famous Hetty Arts Doughnuts, can be found at various places around town. Hettypartspastry.com
GK Baked Goods makes desserts for any occasion, using locally source ingredients and makes everything in-house. Located inside Junk Ditch Brewing Company.
1825 W. Main Street, 260.203.4045
Catablu Grille offers creative American fare and a full bar.
6372 W. Jefferson Boulevard, 260.456.6563, thecatablugrille.com
The Oyster Bar serves seafood and American specialities and a full bar.
1880 S. Calhoun Street, 260.744.9490, fwoysterbar.com