2016 Forty Under 40: Jonathan Brooks

  • Comments
  • Print
Jonathan Brooks (IBJ photo)


Milktooth not only established Jonathan Brooks as one of Indiana’s leading chefs, it brought him national attention when he was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs.

Core concepts: The idea behind Milktooth was to build a fun restaurant—casual with fresh, honest and, Brooks hoped, delicious food. “I know we don’t appeal to everyone, but that was never one of our goals.”

Keep ’em guessing: “Some people look at food like they look at appliances,” Brooks said. “They want it to be predictable and reliable. … I want food to be exciting. I want things in front of me that I’ve never had before. I want to make mistakes. I want to make people laugh. I want to challenge them … I want them to feel sexy and have fun.”


Age: 31

Hometown: Indianapolis

Family: wife, Ashley; son, Roman, 4

Social media: Uses Instagram the most. “It’s quick, which is important to me during a busy day.”

Reading pile: “Restoring the Shining Waters: Superfund Success at Milltown, Montana,” by his brother, David Brooks. “And ideasinfood.com is an incredibly resourceful website.”

Playlist: Brooks doesn’t like to cook without music. Favorites include Travis Scott’s “Rodeo,” Courtney Barnett’s “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas,” and Destroyer’s “Poison Season.”

Generous portions: Brooks’ mother “always had endless patience with her children and grandchildren when they lent a hand in the kitchen,” he recalled. “Cooking should be a generous act, and she showed me and everyone around her generosity.”

Kitchen secret: “Seventy percent of what cooks do is clean. Clean the fish, clean the potato, clean your station, clean your knives, clean the walk-in, clean your nails, clean the hood …”

Avenue influence: Virginia Avenue and Fletcher Place were on the cusp of getting respect as a destination for food when he opened in 2014. Attention built in 2015. But there’s a downside: “A lot of my friends and employees really can’t afford to live in Fletcher or Fountain Square anymore. I don’t want to see small, independent businesses being forced to compete with large ones for real estate. I don’t want to see the young artists and musicians move away.”

Favorite downtime activities: “I don’t have downtime,” said Brooks—although he occasionally gets a drink of good mescal and eats “lovingly prepared food” in his friends’ restaurants.•

Check out more 2016 Forty Under 40 honorees.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.