Take a Bite
Fishers Test Kitchen Brings Culinary Creativity to Fishers District
Thanks to a new culinary concept launched in Fishers, up-and-coming chefs now have a unique place to hone their craft, and local residents have the chance to come try their various creations.
The co-founders of Fishers Test Kitchen, which opened on February 1 at The Yard at Fishers District, describe the facility as a restaurant accelerator that includes three separate food stands and a 350-seat food hall shared with Sun King Brewing Company.
Back in 2016, co-founders John Wechsler and Jolene Ketzenberger began formulating the Test Kitchen model, realizing there could be a high level of interest from chefs wanting to try out unique food concepts and widen their reach into the northside.
An 18-month construction process ensued, and late last summer the Fishers Test Kitchen co-founders selected the first group of chefs that currently work inside the space. Chefs and brothers Jung Gyu Kim and Jung Min Kim operate Korave Korean Barbecue, a fast-casual eatery that offers barbecue chicken rice bowls, poutine, tacos and more. Chef Carlos Salazar runs Lil Dumplings, which he describes as global street food including chicharrones, lamb chili and cheese dogs, and cheesesteak dumplings. Natural State Provisions, run by chefs Adam and Alicia Sweet, features sandwiches, salads, chicken bites, mac and cheese and more.
“We feel like all the chefs’ concepts stand on their own, but they complement each other as well,” says Wechsler, who also serves as CEO of Fishers Test Kitchen. “The grand opening was great – the chefs really crushed it.”
Salazar, who most recently worked at Fountain Square-based Rook, says the opportunity to show off his chops at Fishers Test Kitchen is the perfect foray into Indy’s northside.
“My plan is for this to be a stepping stone to get into the Fishers community and get them to recognize who I am,” Salazar says. “I’ve had some exposure with Rook down in Fountain Square, and I thought the timing was good to get into the northside. Opening day was just insane – there were so many people asking about what was going on here and how it works.”
Wechsler says the original idea for the Fishers Test Kitchen came when he noticed a lack of local, legacy eateries in the Fishers area.
“When I first moved here in the mid-80s, there were about 3,500 people here,” says Wechsler, who also co-founded the co-working space Launch Fishers. “Today there are 98,000. With all that growth, one thing that we lack significantly is legacy restaurant space. In older cities and towns all over the country, they grow at a more linear pace and the restaurants keep up with the community. Here there tend to be a lot of national chains. There’s a dearth of local, original concepts.”
Wechsler adds that the growth in Fishers of tech and innovation companies has led to an increased demand for fresh, quality food establishments.
“The kind of people that those companies attract demand more from their restaurant scene than the standard chain store experience,” he says. “So we felt like – quite literally – feeding the innovation economy was a priority and that by investing in space to de-risk the decision for someone to open a restaurant in Fishers, we would ultimately see some growth in the community. That was the driver behind this.”
The Test Kitchen co-founders plan to keep their first group of chefs at the facility for approximately 20 months, after which they will evaluate which chefs are ready to head out and perhaps open their own establishments.
“At that year-and-a-half mark, the plan is to maybe take one chef out and bring a new one in, and then start to rotate every four to six months so we don’t have all of our chefs out at the same time,” Wechsler says.
The dining hall’s hours of operation match Sun King’s hours, so customers have the option to experience both establishments if desired.
“We are the exclusive food service in the facility, so when people come in for a Sun King beer, we’re the only place they can get food,” Wechsler says.
Wechsler adds that, from the start, local leaders and residents alike have supported the Fishers Test Kitchen mission.
“The city itself is financially investing in this project so they’re our backers, and having the mayor and the council behind it gives it a great start to begin with,” he says. “The broader community has been unbelievably supportive of this idea, as well as Launch Fishers. We’re pretty sure that this municipally supported culinary accelerator concept is the first of its kind.”
Fishers Test Kitchen is located at 9713 District North Drive, Suite 1210 in Fishers. For more information and full menus, visit fisherstestkitchen.com.