Chef Aaron Butts

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | November 10th, 2010 | Chef Interviews

Aaron Butts Think Tasty has been traveling across the USA seeking the best restaurants by region.  In October we discovered the Great Lakes Region, and along with it, Joseph Decuis Restaurant in Roanoke, Indiana.  This establishment is not only a restaurant but also a farm, emporium, culinarium, and inn.  With so much to offer and a solid fan base voting for them, we knew we needed to learn more about this restaurant and its chef, Aaron Butts.

Chef Aaron did not attend formal culinary school.  He started cooking in high school, and was excelling so fast he didn’t want to slow down to go to school.  As part of the learning process he has done internships at restaurants, such as Fat Duck and  Charlie Trotter’s.  In addition to internship, he has learned much through reading.  He also has earned certification as a sommelier, which has helped him with wine pairings and cooking.

Working at Joseph Decuis, he has learned the importance of working with fresh local foods.  At their farm, they raise Wagyu cattle, chickens, herbs, and vegetables.  In addition, they supplement with produce, meats, and dairy items from other local and similarly minded farms.  These other farms tend to be small farms, many of whom are producing heritage breeds.  Working with these local farms, they serve items only when they’re in season locally.  As Chef Aaron stated, “Indiana tomatoes are amazing, but when they’re gone, we don’t have them any more.  We don’t buy them from California or Mexico to keep them on the menu.”

Located in Indiana and having standards such as that, it may seem difficult to provide produce to their diners in the winter.  Chef Aaron did note, “We do have to source, some things can’t be grown locally.  Our citrus comes from Florida.  Arugula salad is grown north of Indianapolis, hydroponically, which keeps us in greens year round.”  In addition, this restaurant has formed a relationship with a local Amish family that should help solve the problem.  The family has built a greenhouse and will be growing items, such as collard greens and kale, for the restaurant’s use.

Discussing what he likes best on the menu, Chef Aaron indicated that the Wagyu beef was a favorite ingredient for cooking.  The farm has been raising these cattle for seven years, and within that time it’s changed what the chefs can do with the beef.  Instead of working with only the “good cuts”, such as filet, the chefs use all parts of the cow.  As he explained, “We can elevate mundane cuts.  When we are left with rounds, rump roasts, flank steak, and a ton of other cuts, we use cuts like that in a way that is up to our standard, which is always fun.”  In fact, next year they may try to butcher their own cattle to maximize the amount of cuts that they get.

Moving from food to customers, we discussed why Joseph Decuis has so many loyal patrons.  Chef Aaron attributed it to two factors, “The quality of food and quality of service. It is leaps and bounds above local restaurants.”  He continued, “People come to us for the honesty of our food.  Some people view it as a trend, but it is something we live by.  It is not trendy.  They know the eggs in the pasta are from 6 miles up the road.  The chicken is fresh, never frozen.  They know where the food is coming from.”

Working at Joseph Decuis with truly farm fresh ingredients and dedicated staff, Chef Aaron may be another one of the reasons why their patrons are so loyal.

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