21-year old takes over at Tegry Bistro
Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer / Jamie Sangar
Favorite neighborhood Asian-inspired bistro, Tegry Bistro, is in for some exciting changes.
Starting with brand new owner and head chef, Connor Lingle. He’s just getting used to the title, but he’s no stranger to the restaurant and the food industry.
“I was born with a passion for cooking,” Lingle says. “I actually knew at 10 or 11 years old that I wanted to be a chef.”
Although just 21 years of age, Lingle’s journey has already been long and colorful. The chef and entrepreneur says it all started in the kitchen with his grandma cooking homemade meals.
“She taught me how to make all kinds of things,” he says. “So, I tried it out on my babysitter. I chopped up onions, seasoned them and sautéed them for her. She loved them. From that moment on, I knew cooking was what I wanted to do.”
Anxious to get started, Lingle got his first restaurant job at Stone Creek Dining Company at just age 15. He started out bussing tables, but it wasn’t long before he worked his way in to the kitchen. Then it was on to Tegry Bistro.
There, he met a mentor who would change his life forever. Owner and award-winning Chef, Joe Dagvadorj, brought Lingle on board and taught him a lot about the business during his junior and senior years of high school. When the time came to decide about life after high school, Lingle set his sights on Kendall College, the second best culinary school in the United States, and got accepted. His boss, Joe, had different advice for the budding chef.
“Joe encouraged me to go to culinary school at Ivy Tech and keep working,” he says.
So, Lingle withdrew his acceptance at Kendall and started culinary school at Ivy Tech. He tackled his baking requirement, but after just a few months, he realized he wanted to get practical experience in European restaurants. Lingle’s plan was to find a good paying job, save money and travel the world for a year, gaining experience as a “stagiaire,” or volunteer assistant chef.
Still, he intended to stick with it to build his savings a little longer. Until one day, Lingle stopped in Taxman Brewery for lunch, and the old familiar pull of the restaurant business struck him. He asked the manager for a job doing dishes.
He quickly moved up to cook at Taxman.
“I learned a lot more in that job than I had ever learned on my own,” Lingle says. “It was the most intense, highly structured kitchen with big hierarchy. But the leadership was good.”
Fate intervened again, and took Lingle back to Tegry. He stopped in for lunch, when his old friend Joe happened to be working. Lingle was happy to connect with his mentor and began telling him about being back in cooking. Chef Joe’s workload had become tremendous. Handling Tegry’s Fishers location along with their Brownsburg and Trader’s Point locations was stretching him thin. His nephew and sushi chef, Anand Tsogtbaatar, was also being stretched thin. Without hesitation, Joe offered Lingle the opportunity to take over the restaurant.
“At first, I didn’t take him seriously. I really thought he was joking,” Lingle says. “But then he followed me out to my car and continued to convince me.”
Joe explained to him that opportunities like this are rare, and he encouraged Lingle to follow his passion, not his paycheck. After thinking it over and talking to his parents, he told Chef Joe he was in.
Lingle has already made plenty of progress in making the restaurant his own. First, Lingle has lifted a weight from sushi chef Anand’s shoulders by handling management duties.
Lingle is already developing a new menu, too. He’s minimizing the current menu to feature the more popular items and create some new favorites, incorporating some of his own recipes. Starting in January, Tegry will be offering specials to help determine the most popular items.
“Our new menu is going to be sleek and modern, and it’s going to promote the most popular items,” Lingle says.
Besides the specials, Tegry will start offering sake flights or samplings. They’ll also update their beer and wine menu to add more local and craft beers. In the meantime, Lingle says Tegry will be learning and adjusting along with their customers.
“We’re not sure how Tegry will evolve exactly,” he says. “But we’re going to let it evolve naturally, starting with gradual changes. Ultimately, it will be a big change from what it is now.”
The changes will be noticeable in the way Tegry capitalizes on the restaurant’s already popular features. The sushi bar is already wildly popular, featuring sushi made the traditional Japanese way with perfect portions. Tegry starts with the highest-grade sushi rice and seaweed available. Lingle’s goal is to expand beyond the sushi bar.
“We’re moving away from the traditional Asian sushi restaurant we once were,” he adds. “We want to concentrate on making our kitchen menu as popular as our sushi menu.”
Tegry’s atmosphere is another great feature Lingle wants to exploit. The restaurant’s modern, classy yet relaxed vibe will be amped up by adding dimmed lighting with candles and jazz music in the evening.
Visit Tegry Bistro at 11561 Geist Pavilion Drive in the Geist Pavilion center off Olio Road. For more info, visit them at tegrybistro.com.