Indiana’s Top Chefs Featuring Keith Angell at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino

ANDERSON – His mother always told him to “follow his heart.”

Find something you’re good at, that you enjoy, be the best at it, and get paid to do it.

That’s what Keith Angell thought he was doing when he went to Indiana University in Bloomington to study pre-med in 1989. “I wasn’t ready for school,” he admits. He says he ended up studying girls and partying, and when he found himself taking an unplanned break from school, he needed a job. He picked a restaurant. And then another restaurant, and another, and another, …

At one of those preliminary kitchen stops he was introduced to a chef at a country club in Bloomington. “That opened my eyes,” he says. “It was the first chef I’d ever worked for. I was just a sponge. And I never stopped cooking.”

He’d realized, at a very basic level, that “the world is run by people who show up.” Day after day, he did. And he quickly climbed the ladder.

When one of his Bloomington chefs went to Indianapolis to work, Angell followed him.

And after more than nine years in a number of restaurant kitchens, Angell went to culinary school. He says a recurring memory of family Thanksgivings reassured him that his choice of the culinary world was the right choice.

“All the guys would be in the family room watching football, and the ladies would be in the kitchen – and I’d be going back and forth,” he says. “I love football – played football – but I always wanted to know what was going on in the kitchen.”

Angell chose Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. “I picked Charleston for the weather – and the women,” he admits. “But this time I got straight A’s in school. Made sure I did my studying before I played.”

He graduated summa cum laude and went on to Atlanta, Georgia, and Jack Nicklaus golf resorts. When the economy shifted three years later, electives like golf were among the first casualties. So he returned to the Carolinas where he worked as a corporate executive chef for food facilities at large corporations. There were also short stints on cruise ships.

“But I always wanted to come back home,” he says. The single father and son moved to Indiana in 2006. After a series of kitchens in universities and restaurants, Angell joined the Hoosier Park team in Anderson a couple years ago. The harness racing/casino facility has a series of eateries that peak with the Homestretch Steakhouse, a fine dining restaurant that looks out over the racetrack.

“I’m finding a lot of enjoyment, probably for the first time in my career, in teaching now,” Angell says. “I’ve taught classes before, but this is probably the most receptive audience (steakhouse cooks) I’ve ever had. … I can see my 1993 self in them.”

One of his hallmarks is constantly creating something new. “There are some things we cannot take off the menu – the Steakhouse bruschetta, for example – but there’s the fresh catch which changes every week and keeps me on my toes,” he says.

Christal Johnson, Hoosier Park’s advertising brand account manager, says, “Chef Keith has taken this menu and elevated it beyond meat and potatoes. He brings a new experience to the city, and we couldn’t be more delighted. In addition to the exquisite cuisine, it’s far beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. We’re surrounded by glass (with the finish line of the race track just outside the restaurant’s huge windows). You can have a dining experience like no other. You’re in the middle of a sporting event.”

“We specialize in fun,” Angell adds. “Here is a place to be seen. We’re not a quiet, secluded little niche.” The casino and restaurants are open year-round. This year’s harness racing season is April 1 to Nov. 17. “We are more than just gaming; we are more than just racing,” Johnson says. She calls Hoosier Park “a hidden gem” with gaming, racing, dining, and entertainment.”

Hoosier Park will host the Breeders Crown Oct. 27-28. It’s considered the ultimate year-end championship of harness racing. “We want people to know we’re here,” Johnson says. “Once we get them here, the experience will speak for itself.”

Hoosier Park Racing & Casino 
Homestretch Steakhouse Restaurant
4500 Dan Patch Circle 
Anderson, Indiana 46013 
Exit 226 off I-69
(765) 642-7223
hoosierpark.com

Paper Wrapped Mediterranean Grouper Recipe By Keith Angell

This recipe is a Century’s old style French preparation called “En Papillote” or “in paper”. It is a very healthy and low fat option to cook delicious seafood. Because of the seafood’s quick cooking time, it blends well with several types of vegetables which all cook together in a steam pocket. The fish should be unwrapped at the table where the diner can enjoy the first smell of Grouper was chosen here but can be easily substituted with snapper, sea bass, salmon or even does well with shellfish like shrimp, scallops, mussels or clams.

If using a filet of fish season the filet with salt and pepper and pan sear the fish on both sides in a hot pan using about a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook about 2 minutes on each side – the fish will still be raw in the middle.

Next, place fish on one side of a piece of parchment paper and cover with the following ingredients: cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, olives, minced garlic, red onion, fresh thyme, fresh oregano and lemon juice. These ingredients can be tossed in a bowl with a little salt and pepper before covering the fish.

Next, the fish should be tightly wrapped by folding and creasing the paper around the fish and finished snug so as to hold in the steam while cooking.

Place the fish into a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately exposing the steam at the table. I suggest serving with rice for a healthy, delicious meal.

List of Ingredients: 

4 7oz portions of grouper (or other fish)
4 half sheets of parchment paper
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
16 olives, halved
16 quartered artichokes
3 tablespoons capers, drained
4 cloves minced garlic
2 oz diced red onions
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh oregano
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil