The Build Fund helps foster economic development by providing lending to businesses who then, in turn, offer local job opportunities. Those that work for the businesses that the Build Fund assists create lasting and positive impact in their communities with the services that they provide.
Cannon Ball Brewing Company, one of the Build Fund’s clients, is a local staple in the Kennedy-King neighborhood. They are a small craft brewery with a main focus on quality, seasonality, and culinary inspiration. We chatted with Erin Kem, the Chef and Manager, about her background and contributions to this growing and thriving establishment
After graduating from Ball State University with degrees in French and History, Erin moved away from her native town of Muncie and spent a year in France. Her time there led her to pursue a culinary degree at the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, VT, which then prompted her to move back to Indiana where she began working for Chef Tony Hanslits at Tavola di Tosa. From there she moved to R Bistro where she worked as the sous chef alongside James Beard semi-finalist nominee, Chef Regina Mehallick. During the final year and a half of the restaurant’s run, Erin was their executive chef.
Outside of her full-time job at Cannon Ball, she finds time to teach cooking classes and take on small catering jobs.
What drew you to Cannon Ball Brewing? What excites you about working there?
“I’ve known Mark Swartz, Owner and Head Brewer of Cannon Ball, for about 10 years, so in early 2016 when R Bistro was closing, I contacted him to get on board at his new business. It’s exciting to be a one-person cooking machine, though at times I could use another four sets of hands. It’s a fun challenge to create a new menu every quarter and figure out how to execute my menu in a small space with minimal equipment.”
How has working for Cannon Ball impacted your life?
“Besides adding to my multi-tasking abilities, working right behind the bar has given me the opportunity to meet our customers, talk about food and beer with them, and make lasting friendships. The ultimate example of this is that I met my soon-to-be husband at Cannon Ball over a bowl of posole!”
You’ve won Cannon Ball a lot of acclaim in the media with your food. What inspires you and how do you come up with the pairings of food and beer?
“I think about food all the time, and so many different things inspire me. I love the change of seasons, the availability of interesting ingredients, and working with local growers.
Sometimes my challenge is focusing my thoughts into a clear, concise creation.
While the menu isn’t a direct reflection of the beer on hand since the list changes regularly, certain elements of particular beers and dishes are magical together. I like to encourage our guests to pair certain items together, but it’s hard to convince “non-hopheads” to try an IPA with a chocolate dessert.”
Erin’s creations have gained local acclaim for herself and Cannon Ball. She and the brewery have been featured in a podcast and numerous articles in the Indy Star, Indiana on Tap, and the Indianapolis Business Journal. Cannon Ball Brewing was also named an Indianapolis Monthly 2018 Best Restaurant thanks to her creativity and dedication.
Thank you to Erin for sharing her story and for her contributions to Cannon Ball Brewing Company. We’re thrilled to have her fulfill one of the 106 job opportunities already created by Build Fund funding.