Growing up, Chef Eric Braun enjoyed the Polish comfort foods cooked by his mother and grandmother. He developed an interest in cooking at an early age, often experimenting with canned soup and bologna which he would serve to his mother proudly. After marrying his college sweetheart, Jennifer, Eric worked all over the country opening restaurants in Kansas; Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. In 2004, they moved back to Fort Wayne and started Kneedachef, preparing gourmet private dinners for clients. With an expansive background in preparing food and running restaurant operations, Eric is able to provide a complete experience from the food to the table service.
“I have a complete perspective about how restaurants are run, from a holistic standpoint,” says Braun. “Most people are specialists and only know one aspect, but when I create a restaurant I’m just as knowledgeable about servers, table settings and greeting people as I am with how the food should be expertly prepared in a timely fashion. But, I do leave decorating up to those who know best. For example, I’ve created lasting menu items for Wine Down in Fort Wayne – which was the 16th restaurant I opened – but the décor was done by the owners, Gary and Kelly Skeel, who did a remarkable job making the place look absolutely great and left the operational things like food and wine up to us.”
Being aware of those details in timing and running a smooth operation is key to a restaurant’s success, says Braun. Making sure someone’s food is served promptly, not sitting around, is one of the basics some people unfortunately overlook. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with four classically trained chefs and three classic French trained maître d’s so I know how to cook plus all of the table side service – from the back of the house to the front, which is how I’ve been able to open up all these restaurants. I’m able to write recipes and create beautiful food, and also deliver proper service up front.”
Braun’s wife, Jennifer, is an Indiana state champion, award-winning 4-H baker. She is also an experienced hostess and server who upholds the same level of quality her husband expects in his restaurants. When serving guests in clients’ homes, she ensures everyone feels welcome and cared for. She has helped Eric prepare and entertain guests and clients for many years, and favors serving her made-from-scratch desserts to guests because of the attention to quality. “When we consult with clients ahead of time for their dinners, I ask which types of desserts they like best,” says Jennifer. “For example, is chocolate king? But my favorite response is when they say, ‘surprise me!’ ”
Jennifer’s partnership with her husband allows the couple to let each of their skills shine, exemplified by her creating the initial dessert menu featuring her confectionary masterpieces for Wine Down. “I like to make classic desserts like Crème Brulee and bread pudding, but also triple chocolate layer cake, raspberry cheesecake, white chocolate key lime pie, chocolate bourbon balls and I just created white chocolate lemon balls rolled in Turbinado sugar.”
In addition to creating delectable dinners, desserts and ensuring optimal service for guests, the Brauns have a third partner in their business for a balanced team approach. Wine Consultant George Woollacott provides his expertise on wine and perfect pairings for just about any dish to round out the total dining experience, and in fact, it was Woollacott who created the initial wine list for Wine Down. “We need to take the time to truly enjoy our food,” Woollacott says. “We want people to appreciate the effort and passion that is put into high-quality cuisine, and expand that experience by providing the ideal wine or beverage to complement and enhance the meal.”
This complete dining experience is accomplished with the dedicated, passionate team that Eric, Jennifer and George are. Each of their specialties allows them to succeed in delivering the best possible food, wine and service to their clients and guests.
Two new concepts that Eric has in the works are a menu focusing on comfort foods with a twist, like Cabernet Beef Stew and Sausage Gravy with Chardonnay. His other concept is a restaurant serving famous dishes from around the world and serving classic dishes tableside like Steak Diane, Caesar Salad, Flaming Irish Coffee and Flaming Cherries Jubilee.
“Food is my life,” says Braun. “For me it’s not work; it’s a passion, and it’s what I love.”
Owner(s): Chef Eric Braun
Phone: (260) 431-4385