Changing cuisine

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After a successful home catering business, Chef Keith Brooks is renovating Eddie’s Corner Café into The Ville

Keith Brooks’ love for cooking began at an early age – with fiery origins.

“I loved it as a child – baking and cooking. But I had a grease fire cooking bacon at age 12 and my dad said I should never cook again,” Brooks said. “To prove my dad wrong I studied culinary arts the rest of my life.”

Brooks took as many home economics courses he could in middle and high school, did vocational training at a career center and went to Kendall Culinary School in Illinois. Following graduation, Brooks made his way to New Orleans and worked in Chef Emeril Lagasse’s kitchen at the Commander’s Palace.

“It’s one of the largest tourist attractions in New Orleans. We’d have 700 covers on Saturday nights,” he said. “It really indoctrinated me into the business. I’d see Rod Stewart walking through the dining room.”

Brooks worked for six months under Lagasse, who had not become a household name at that time.

“He was a working chef,” Brooks said. “I left there pretty strong, but stronger than I ever could have been if I hadn’t been there.”

Simple beginnings

Brooks married his wife, Raquel, in 2013 and moved from Chicago to Hamilton County. In 2005, he opened Special Occasions Catering.

“I always had my dream to have a restaurant,” he said.

With young children, Brooks said the home catering business provided him flexibility.

“When the recession hit it was a good thing we were here at the house,” he said. “Our kitchen at home has everything a commercial kitchen would.”

“It gave us a low risk to lean the business,” Raquel said.

One of Brooks’ biggest breaks came when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl in 2012. He was one of 33 businesses chosen to sell at the Super Bowl Commissioners tailgate.

“It was the biggest paying or notoriety events,” he said. “It was huge for us.”

Finding a place

The Brooks looked at a variety of places and opportunities but could not find the right spot to open a restaurant.

“Unfortunately we wrote a lot of different business plans,” Raquel said. “Everything was just so expensive.”

Then luck struck and the couple was featured on episode six of the eight-part pilot series of “Buy This Restaurant” on the Food Network. The episode was filmed in January and aired in March.

“The Food Network found us. We weren’t putting any feelers out,” Keith said.

“They truly allowed us to just be ourselves,” Raquel said.

With the help of host Keith Simpson, the Brooks looked at locations in Noblesville, Castleton and downtown Indianapolis.

“It was fun,” Raquel said. “Keith was really nice and the very informative too. He gave us suggestions on operating the business. It was more than just the store; it was how to run your business to be successful. We definitely plan on keeping in touch.”

While most of Brooks’ catering business comes from Indy, the couple said it was easy to select Noblesville as their preferred locale.

“It was an existing restaurant in the community we live in. It is a perfect location. It is ideal to be on the square,” Raquel said.

While the show did not pay the Brooks for their time, The Ville will be featured on the Food Network’s On the Road app – the first in Noblesville.

Remodeling Eddie’s

Prior to purchasing 101 N. 10th St. – better known as the former Eddie’s Corner Café – the Brooks knew the building had several issues to bring up to code including installing a range hood, infrastructure improvements, new floor drains and installing new entrances on Logan and 10th streets. When demolition and construction took place, they found a live knob fuse box and a stairway to the basement that was previously covered up.

The second floor mezzanine will be used for event space and overflow dining. Keith said he still plans to continue to be a vendor at the Noblesville Farmers Market and produce market and do off-site catering. While the exterior and interior will be different once it reopens, the Brooks hope to have loyal customers like Eddie’s did.

“We’re hoping to build some of the same memories,” Raquel said.

Since the Brooks began looking for a permanent location, they have filled their garage with kitchen equipment.

“We did it the right away,” Raquel said. “We have a solid plan and are building up a following.”

The Ville

Keith said the American cuisine restaurant will focus on health and wellness.

“Things that are fresh, nothing frozen and not many fried items,” he said. “It’s a balance of hearty and healthy but I’m not going to be a health nut.”

Keith said his New Orleans heritage will also play a part in the restaurant.

“I’m going to have some New Orleans influence on the menu,” he said.

In March, The Ville had a line of guests waiting for fresh jambalaya as fast as Brooks could cook it at the Taste of Noblesville. His food didn’t disappoint and the restaurant was named the People’s Choice Award-winner.

“I feel a lot better but it is scary. There is a high failure rate with restaurants,” Raquel said. “Knowing there is an interest makes me feel better. At home is safe.”

The Brooks were hoping to open next month but some delays in permits and construction have caused them to believe early July will be more realistic.

“It all depends on how quickly things come together,” Keith said. “It’s crazy. It’s so close you can almost taste it.”

Once open, The Ville will offer lunch and dinner and a buffet brunch on Sundays. The Ville is in the process of earning its liquor license and will sell beer and wine.

For more information on the restaurant and its opening date, visit The Ville Restaurant Facebook page or www.dineattheville.com.

Meet Keith Brooks

Age: 45

Hometown: Gary

Residence: Noblesville

Family: wife, Raquel; daughter, Marin, 8; and son, Reims, 5.

Hobbies: “Cooking and woodworking. I’m a crafty guy.”

Personal quote: A French chef told me, “My strength is in my seasoning, whether it is a pastry or sauce.”

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