spilling the beans

Kitchen Improv

By / Photography By Tess Graham | October 04, 2016
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Smoked trio includes (left to right) duck tacos, chicken and lettuce wraps and wings.
Chef Jesse Shoemaker’s passion lies in international flavors from local ingredients

Chef Jesse Shoemaker never attended culinary school, but started his training in his mother’s kitchen. Once he started second grade, Shoemaker became responsible for making dinner for his family once a week. With few guidelines, “I was left to do my thing. When it was my night to cook, the sky was the limit, and hot dogs were going to be involved!” The payoff was not having to do the dishes.

“As far as I was concerned, it was the greatest deal ever,” says Shoemaker. “Those early experiences gave me a lot of confidence in the kitchen, which has helped continue that interest in cooking throughout the years.”
Shoemaker is a homegrown chef with a passion for locally sourced ingredients and international recipes. He grew up in Goshen, attended Goshen College and got his professional start in the kitchens of three Goshen restaurants—Rachel’s Bread, Venturi and Constant Spring—before taking on his current position at Goshen Brewing Company.
When he worked at Rachel’s Bread during college, Shoemaker realized that the kitchen was where he truly felt at home. After college, he moved with friends to Chicago hoping to find work as a chef, but his part-time experience wasn’t enough to get him hired in the big-city culinary scene. After a few years, while back in Goshen visiting his parents, Shoemaker lucked into a pair of restaurant jobs and an apartment.
"The thing I love about food is that it is either really good or a really good story." —Jesse Shoemaker
“I worked for Venturi and Constant Spring for about three years and learned so much about how a restaurant is different from cooking at home. We opened Goshen Brewing Company a little over a year ago, and it has been a very fun and crazy learning experience as well.”
The Goshen Brewing Company features delicious handcrafted brews; Shoemaker’s menu and the restaurant’s commitment to using fine-quality, locally sourced ingredients has also made it one of the city’s outstanding restaurants. Asian-influenced dishes—smoked duck tacos, steamed pork buns or Tuesday night special pad Thai—are featured alongside Southern barbecue offerings—black-eyed peas, the “Hot Mess” pulled pork sandwich with jalapeños or Wednesday night’s smoked wings.

Shoemaker’s interest in Asian cuisine arose from his own struggle with food sensitivities. “When I first started cooking in college I was having a lot of issues with food sensitivities. Dairy and wheat weren’t sitting very well with me, and I started cooking a lot of Thai food because it didn’t make me sick. I checked out a Thai cookbook from the library over and over and over again, and cooked a lot of stuff out of it.”

While Shoemaker is inventive and improvisational, he also obsesses over perfecting certain recipes. For instance, he says, “I can’t even count the thousands of times I tried making pad Thai before I felt like I knew what I was doing. The more I make something, the harder it seems to get it right, and I just keep finding things that I feel can be improved on.” Yet his pad Thai was a hit at Constant Spring, and he’s brought an equally popular version to Goshen Brewing.

Shoemaker finds his best inspiration for creativity in overcoming limitations. “When I start cooking and realize I don’t have the ingredients I need, the creativity really comes out and I start making things I never would have thought of. It can definitely backfire in a hilarious way, but a lot of my favorite things that I have made have come from those kinds of situations. And the failures are always so much fun. I have turned pesto into glue, sugar into salt, and one very tasty duck into something that was closer to a baseball bat than food. The thing I love about food is that it is either really good or a really good story.”

Goshen Brewing Company
315 W. Washington St.
Goshen, IN


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315 W Washington St
Goshen , IN
Article from Edible Michiana at http://ediblemichiana.ediblecommunities.com/eat/kitchen-improv
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