Chef Lake Russell sautees a pan of brussels sprouts in Shymik's Kitchen on Friday, Oct. 9, 2021. He is one of three chefs participating in the upcoming Culinary Crossroads dinner on Oct. 26. Staff photo by Aimee Blume
Chef Lake Russell sautees a pan of brussels sprouts in Shymik's Kitchen on Friday, Oct. 9, 2021. He is one of three chefs participating in the upcoming Culinary Crossroads dinner on Oct. 26. Staff photo by Aimee Blume
EVANSVILLE -- Culinary Crossroads is a new Indiana organization that’s all about excellent food, talented people and good causes.

It highlights all the culinary best of Indiana: chefs, restaurant owners and farmers; unique products; special restaurants; and companies that ensure consumers in Indiana and beyond have access to safe, healthy and sustainable food supplies.

Based in Indianapolis, Culinary Crossroads embraces the whole state and is soon coming to Evansville to host its first “On the Road” collaborative dinner on Tuesday, October 26, at The Copper House with chefs Charisa Perkins of the Copper House, Lake Russell of Schymik’s Kitchen, and Jeremiah Galey of Amy’s on Franklin.

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“Culinary Crossroads came about as part of an ongoing dialogue I was having with the lieutenant governor, Susanne Crouch, around three years ago,” said founder Larry Dickerson.

“I had moved back to Indianapolis after working in travel and tourism around the country, and I wanted to see how we could make enhancements to travel and tourism agencies here. I’d talked to culinary leaders in Indianapolis, and they had a great story to tell about what’s happening around the state.”

Dickerson pondered how to enhance Indiana’s culinary bedrock to make the state and its cities better places to live and work.

“We have a lot of people travel through Indiana and there is a need to raise awareness of restaurants and Indiana products, but that’s the low hanging fruit,” he said. “The larger opportunity is that a healthy culinary landscape is a great asset for businesses to use in their recruiting. We want to get people into the restaurants, but we also have to figure out how to keep that water in the sponge.”

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He began by supporting Indianapolis chefs from Team Indiana in the World Food Championships in 2019, which were held in Dallas with the final round in New Orleans. He successfully lobbied for the 2020 final round to be held in Indianapolis.

His next steps were to bring chefs together in partnership for two dinner series. The first was the Spring 2021 Dinner Series, featuring twelve Indianapolis-based chefs working in pairs to offer a unique dining experience each week in April and May at Indy’s Highland Country Club.

Ongoing is the year-long Supper Club Series -- exquisite five-course meals prepared by top chefs each Sunday evening at the Paramount Cottage Home in Indianapolis. 

With these series proving successful, Dickerson decided it was time to head out to other Indiana cities. Evansville will be first, then later Jeffersonville, Fort Wayne, South Bend and others.

A few things make these dinner series different than most. First, a portion of the ticket cost goes to pay the chefs.

“Chefs are always recruited for festivals and special events and are expected to do it without pay because it will be good for business, but at the end of the day they’re trying to make a living,” Dickerson said. “We will always compensate our chefs.”

Second, each chef chooses a cause that is special to them for a financial contribution. Here in Evansville, Lake Russell chose Riley Children’s Hospital; Jeremiah Galey chose Foster Care in the U.S., an Evansville organization that helps children transitioning out of the foster care system; and Charisa Perkins chose the J.D. Sheth Foundation’s Stockin’ the Kitchen packages for new female veteran housing.

Finally, the menu is always secret.

“I will tell you that the Evansville dinner will be a four-course meal and there will be wine pairings with each course,” Dickerson said. “We will have a vegetarian option. Each chef will contribute a small appetizer for the reception period, then dinner will be a salad, entrée and dessert. The ingredients will be local or sourced from Indiana as much as possible.”

The event will be held at The Copper House beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26. A reception with hors d’oeuvres and complimentary cocktails will last until 7 p.m. Dinner will be served from 7-8:30 p.m. with an after party with the chefs lasting until 10 p.m. Tickets are $300 for two, $500 for a table of four, or $1000 for a table of eight. Guests must be 21 or over.

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