INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – He has cooked in different parts of the country and loves cultivating the next generation. He’s an award-winning chef who loves what he does.
As soon as you step foot through the doors of Beholder, the restaurant Jonathan Brooks owns on 10th Street, you can feel his passion. The chef and owner of Milktooth and Beholder tells News 8 he had a unique experience as a teenager while visiting Japan that he keeps with him to this day.
Brooks, 36, says he’s a dad, husband, chef, son and brother.
“Food has just kind of been the way I’ve found myself all along the way,” Brooks said.
Raised in Indianapolis, Brooks graduated from Broad Ripple High School and got a job at a Montana grocery store. Out there, he honed his hunting skills and learned to butcher fish. His mother and grandmother inspired him to get into food, but his family also hosted exchange students from across the world as a child.
“Cooking with them and seeing the foods that they were interested in and hearing about what food meant to them back in their homes, I think is definitely what put me here,” Brooks said.
He told News 8 about a memorable experience he had in Japan with his family when he was 15 years old. They were eating at someone’s home there and he had had enough of eating raw fish that week.
“We’re at this person’s house, and I go to just start grubbing on this bowl that I think is just white rice, doused it in soy sauce or whatever else. At some point, I’m halfway through this bowl, and I realize that it’s all tiny dried anchovies. It’s not white rice. So, not only have I been hogging this garnish that was supposed to be for everything else, I was thinking I would get something comforting at the end of a week of eating outside my comfort zone. Was shocked, surprised,” Brooks said.
He’s been back in Indianapolis for the last 12-13 years. He owns breakfast and lunch spot Milktooth on Virginia Avenue and says one of the most fulfilling things he does as a chef is cultivate the next generation and place people in positions where they can grow. His fine dining restaurant Beholder opened in 2018.
“I would say it’s kind of a world-inspired wine bar. My partner is Josh Mazanowski; he’s a sommelier. So, it’s where food and wine meet and where all the influences of my entire life whether it’s through travel or personal relationships or tumultuous experiences,” Brooks said.
In his restaurant, he’s always listening for something very specific from customers.
“I’m always kind of listening to people,. It’s an open kitchen so I’m listening to customers. If I hear someone say, ‘Oh, I don’t like that, I don’t like eggplant, I don’t like mushroom. That’s like a more exciting place to be is to get them to like it than just to kind of preach to the choir, I guess,” Brooks said.
Because at the end of the day, through his dishes he wants to encourage people.
“I hope that people are always willing to try something new. I hope that people are pushed a little bit to go outside of their comfort zone. The comment we hear the most is, ‘I read the menu and I didn’t understand a single thing on it, but everything tasted great,'” Brooks said.
This is the fourth story in a series we’re calling “INside Story.” David‘s final story looking at Indy’s top chefs — as recommended by Visit Indiana and Visit Indy — will air Friday evening on News 8.
- Indy’s top chefs: Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard
- Indy’s top chefs: Steven Oakley of Oakley’s Bistro
- Indy’s top chefs: Neal Brown of One Trick Pony