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The Journal Gazette

  • File Aaron Butts, left, and Sean Richardson of The Golden in downtown Fort Wayne have been co-nominated as semifinalists in the James Beard Awards for Best Chef: Great Lakes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 10:02 pm

Golden chefs advance to Beard semifinals

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

When chefs Aaron Butts and Sean Richardson opened The Golden in the Ash Skyline Plaza in 2016, they had a vision of a restaurant that brought together quality ingredients and creativity to masses.

On their website, it says that "The Golden is fun. The Golden is creative. The Golden is great experiences with friends and family. Be Golden."

And while they want their diners to be Golden, Butts and Richardson are the ones shining as they have been co-nominated as semifinalists for a James Beard Award.

The nomination, announced Feb. 15, is for Best Chef: Great Lakes. Butts and Richardson are included with 19 other semifinalists, two of whom are from Indiana.

Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth, in Indianapolis, who recently teamed up with Golden for Sunday brunch, and Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard, in Indianapolis, are also competing for the honor.

It’s the second time Butts, who began his career at the age of 16 at Little Caesar’s, has been a semifinalist for this award, the first being in 2011.

He has also cooked at the James Beard House twice and hosted James Beard celebrity chef dinners at Joseph Decuis, where he was executive chef before opening The Golden.

"I was surprised just being that our restaurant is only eight months old," Butts says. "To get that kind of recognition, that kind of attention was pretty surprising."

The James Beard Foundation holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October. More than 24,000 entries were received for this year’s awards.

The Restaurant and Chef Committee reviews the candidates to determine eligibility and regional representation.

"I think it’s something fresh and new, and it’s definitely unique for this part of Indiana," Butts says.

"Being a nominee before, maybe the foundation saw something, ... a new spark in my ability. And I think that might have gotten their attention."

The list of semifinalists is sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country. This panel, which comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners, votes on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees in each category, which will be announced March 15.

The same judges then vote on these five nominees to select the winners, who will be honored at a May 1 event in Chicago.

"(The recognition) is good for the culinary scene in Fort Wayne and to give people a little more attention to the area," Butts says. "We worked really hard these past eight months, and it’s good for the staff to see that their hard work is paying off.

"And it’s just the beginning."

Mardi Gras fun

The Lincoln Financial Event Center at Parkview Field will go from Summit City hangout to a Big Easy hideout.

The Rotary Club of Fort Wayne is hosting a feast Tuesday to support the club’s riverfront development project to pay for the water jet fountains on the south plaza just east of the Compass Pavilion, said Jeff Krull, head of the Big Easy Feast event.

Parkview Field executive chef Scott Kammerer will be making roast beef po’boys, muffaletta, gumbo, red beans and rice, dirty rice, beignets and individual king cakes.

He said making individual king cakes, rather than the traditional big cake, took some planning, and he’s happy with the end result.

Additionally, the Feast will feature a custom-made Rotary Big Easy Brew from the Gnome Brewing Co.

According to Gnome Brewing brewmaster, Mike Flaherty, the Rotary Big Easy Brew is "an IPA that is deep golden/pale amber in color with medium body and substantial, lasting, white foam. Bold hop bitterness from Summit hops follows the complex aromas of the late-addition Amarillo hops, which are an intoxicating blend of citrus, earthy, and floral."

Cost is $30 per person for either lunch or dinner, with a cash bar available at both meals. Lunch will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Go to

Deer Park Irish Pub, 1530 Leesburg Road, will celebrate Mardi Gras beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The bar will serve authentic gumbo with rice, corn bread and a paczki dessert for $8, and a Mardis Gras Bock Beer from Abita Springs, Louisiana, will be available. Cajun Skip and his Zydeco Legendary Troupe Band will perform. The king cake will be cut at 9 p.m.

• The price of king cakes at Waynedale Bakery was incorrect in last week’s column. They are $15 and serve 12 to 16 people.

Around town

• Warmer temperatures this week means one thing – food trucks. The Bravas hot dog truck will be out for lunch today near One Summit Square.

• The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 14 and Associate Lodge No. 6 will host its 12th annual "all you care to eat" Pancake and Sausage Breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m. March 11 at Lodge No. 14, 2125 Olladale Drive. The breakfast will cost $5 for adults and $3 for ages 3 to 12.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email or call 461-8304.