Neal Brown, tastemaker
After graduating from IU and then earning his associates degree in 1996 in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C., in 1996, Brown returned to Central Indiana, where he grew up, to make his mark on the dining scene. Notable stints included serving as sous chef at the much-beloved-but-now-defunct Tavola di Tosa and as executive chef at H20 Sushi and Brugge Brasserie.
But he really catapulted to “celebrity chef” fame with the 2006 opening of his own restaurant, L’Explorateur, in Broad Ripple. The mix of modern American cuisine, high-quality local ingredients and a menu that changed every two weeks quickly won acclaim. Diners and critics were stunned, then, when L’Explorateur closed last January, a casualty of the plummeting economy.
Now: It didn’t take Brown long to re-emerge. In November, he was back with Pizzology, a gourmet pizzeria in Carmel specializing in Neapolitan craft pies baked in an 800-degree oven. In August 2010, his “pet project,” Dig In, debuts at White River State Park. This reinvention of Taste of Indiana will “be the best farmers’ market you’ve ever been to,” he promises. And, he predicts, “There are definitely more restaurants in the works.”
- Story by Julie Cope Saetre