INside Story

Indy’s top chefs: Carlos Salazar of Lil’ Dumplings

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — He’s not even 40 years old, but he’s already made a name for himself in the Indianapolis food scene.

In fact, he’s become one of Indy’s top five chefs, with a special mission in mind. News 8’s David Williams introduces us to a chef who is making waves, one cut at a time.

Chef Carlos Salazar originally had no plans to go into the culinary field. But someone very close to him said something that convinced him to change his career path.

At first, 36-year-old Salazar wasn’t even thinking about cooking. He wanted to be an accountant.

“I was sitting at a bar. She was my friend at one point, but now my wife. I told her, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be happy being in the office the rest of my life.’ She was like, ‘Why don’t you go to culinary school?’ I said, ‘That’s weird.’ She was like, ‘You’ve always liked cooking for us in high school,” Salazar said.

He fell in love with cooking. He started cooking professionally in 2006 and worked his way through restaurants. He even opened his own restaurant, Rook, with a business partner and ran it for sevenyears. Rook closed because of the pandemic.

“When I opened up Rook, it was one of those things where I wanted to challenge the community. I wanted to show them techniques. I wanted to show them flavors. I wanted to show them ingredient pairings that we haven’t seen or heard of,” Salazar said.

In February 2020, he opened his newest concept, Lil’ Dumplings, at the Fishers Test Kitchen.

Then, 30 days later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit central Indiana.

“I stayed open to feed the community. I know we still needed food. We were allowed to do carry-outs, delivery service,” Salazar said.

It was a struggle.

“There were days where everything was pitch black, sitting by myself. Pretty much depressed. What’s going on, what’s going to happen? Throwing away food every single day,” Salazar said.

Through the months, his family and the community helped him claw his way back. He moved to Indiana from the Philippines when he was 8 and grew up in Westfield. He wants to take people on an adventure through his food.

“You want them to feel that we worked hard back there to do that certain ingredient or that dish. I want them to feel that it took three days for me to make this sauce. Or we made that wrapper for the dumplings — we didn’t just buy it. We’re back there rolling it to order,” Salazar said.

And he’s doing just that — one dish at a time. He has plans to open a Lil’ Dumplings noodle bar at Bottleworks in Indianapolis sometime in September.

This is the fifth story in a series we’re calling “INside Story.” The rest of David’s stories looking at Indy’s top chefs — as recommended by Visit Indiana and Visit Indy — aired this week on News 8.

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