Indiana Live! Looking to Hit Jackpot With Local Ingredients
A casino isn't the first place you'd expect to find a restaurant trying to go local.
But there is such a shift happening at Indiana Live! Casino in Shelbyville, ever since Chef Bob Brody became executive chef there this summer. Brody oversees the cuisine at the casino's dining rooms, ranging from a buffet restaurant to Maker's Mark Bourbon House &
Lounge, an upscale steak and seafood restaurant. Brody is working to incorporate local ingredients into dishes, primarily at the sleek Maker's Mark restaurant, which serves such meals as bone-in rib eye, Indiana chicken and dumplings and jumbo scallops.
Heading into winter, Brody's kitchen at Indiana Live! is about 10%–15% local, he says. A realistic goal, Brody said, is to be 50% local. He incorporates local cheeses, breads, herbs, vegetables, hot dogs, some local pork and duck, from Maple Leaf Farms near Milford.
Sourcing local has been a tougher task than Brody expected, coming from Southern California where he had access to farms of a wide variety all year long. It's a challenge he's embraced.
Formerly the executive chef at Golden Acorn Casino, located east of San Diego, and Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, Brody was in the center of a food universe. He had access to all the ingredients he needed, and Pechanga even had its own herd of cattle in Northern California.
At Indiana Live!, Brody is shaping the menus that honor both his California roots and the Midwest palate.
"We have a particular clientele that are used to a certain kind of food," Brody said. "Hoosiers like their pork."
One of his first creations at Indiana Live! was a dish called Five Little Piggies: a pork burger with bacon, pulled pork, pork tenderloin and ham.
Meanwhile, Brody has been exploring local farms and markets, stopping at farms to talk business with the owners. A challenge Brody is running into is that many farms don't have enough product to supply a casino. He goes through about 300 pounds of locally grown tomatoes per week–enough to wipe out a small farm's inventory, Brody joked.
"You have to be selective with what you get and in some cases you just highlight [ingredients] opposed to buying things for the mass," Brody said, mentioning that he might use local ingredients in a garnish rather than a whole meal.
Brody is still exploring the seafood Indiana has to offer. He's discovered lake and river fish, such as walleye, trout and perch that might appear on menus at Indiana Live! But he's had to import most of the seafood, such as scallops, halibut, oysters, shrimp and crab on the menu at Maker's Mark.
Brody sees sourcing local ingredients as a way to keep the kitchen and the customers at Indiana Live! happy.
"You get a better idea of what your product is and, as a result, your employees get a better idea of what they're serving and what they're producing," Brody says. "It's not just open a can or open a box. You can be more creative in the long run."
4300 N. Michigan Rd., Shelbyville; 877-386-4463 | www.indianalivecasino.com