For most of the past decade, the same five talented chefs have dominated the epicurean scene in Bloomington — Dave Tallent at Restaurant Tallent, Jeff Finch at Finch’s Brasserie, Michael Cassady at The Uptown Café, Randy Glaze at Malibu Grill, and Daniel Orr at FARMbloomington. And while these chefs are still turning out exemplary fare (albeit Tallent no longer at his eponymous restaurant, but cooking at Indiana University), four new chefs are attracting their own considerable followings with innovative and exciting offerings.
Feast Bakery Cafe, at the corner of Hillside and Henderson streets, opened in 2011 as a neighborhood coffee shop that also served tamales. But Chef Erika Yochum’s creations were so good that, by popular demand, the menu kept expanding and the line outside the café kept growing until the family-owned enterprise was forced to open a second place on West Patterson Drive. Today, Yochum is the culinary queen of Bloomington, constantly experimenting and preparing one tantalizing dish after another.
Meanwhile, over at the ever-popular Uptown Café, change was in the air. The restaurant expanded, a substantial bar was added, and in 2010, Lake Hubbard, Cassady’s stepson, an accomplished chef in his own right, returned from California where he had helped launch a restaurant at a Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Welcomed into the kitchen by his stepfather, Hubbard began introducing creative international specials that have wowed the Uptown faithful.
Chitakorn Setmark grew up on a farm in northeast Thailand where he began his cooking apprenticeship as a boy, helping his grandmother in the kitchen. One of the lessons he learned was to use only the best and freshest ingredients. Today, at Bangkok Thai Cuisine, hidden away on Bloomington’s east side in the space formerly occupied by The Limestone Grille, Setmark is putting into practice his grandmother’s teachings while serving up the inspired recipes he perfected while working in restaurants around the world.
When Chef Seth Elgar moved from Upland Brewing Co. Bloomington Brewpub to the start-up seafood restaurant No Coast Reserve, he left behind preparing pub food for the opportunity to create a sophisticated menu of his own. And when No Coast Reserve moved from a humble space in an east side strip mall into a large, sleek, primo location on the downtown Square, the restaurant (now known simply as NOCO) became a hit, in large part due to Chef Elgar’s exciting presentations.
We hope you enjoy learning more about these fine chefs, and if you’d like to try one of their recipes go here.—the Editor