Sommelier Josh Ratliffis Director of Culinary Arts atNewfields, which means he supports the team of managers who work to make customers happy. It’s his job—and his specialty—to pay attention to detail. He’s the man behind the scenes, if you will, obsessed with the sensory gifts he can create for others. Ratliff keeps his managers equipped and inspired, and writes and speaks of food as an art form while creating new ways for food to be experienced in the art museum and 50-acre garden that is Newfields.

TheBeer Gardenand Winterlights Food event were two of Ratliff’s initial projects in his first years at Newfields. Now that those food programs have proven to be sustainable, growth is underway. Ratliff is working on a long-term plan to “integrate food and beverage as a cross-bracing element across the institution. I am currently in the final stages of planning for the first pop-up concept, a Tea House,” said Ratliff. In the following 8-12 weeks after the Tea House debut, there will appear more pop-ups accentuating differing art themes. In highlighting the grounds and outdoor spaces at Newfields, there are plans to pair with Upland Brewing Co. for a dinner series held on the property. The string of events is said to feature barrel-aged beers and foods crafted specifically for the occasion.

“Being a sommelier is about being able to say: this is truly great, but I don’t like it,” said Ratliff. His time at Newfields has meshed with his background as a sommelier. He insists it forces one to look at the customer’s preferences rather than just one’s own.

“The Culinary Arts team has focused on making wine accessible and excellent across our programs. We taste all our wines and beers in academic style as we design menus and offerings.” The food and beverage scene at Newfields has even gone so far as to keep wine on tap in the Beer Garden, also known as the back porch. At Summer Nights Film Series events, Ratliff and his team bring canned wine for moviegoers. “Each can is two glasses, which we find works well for a movie while removing glass and increasing recycling,” added Ratliff.

While Ratliff has seen great success in his ventures at Newfields, obstacles are inevitable. “You work face-to-face all day and face-to-computer all night and you still can’t dig out,” he said. On a small scale, Ratliff argues that his everyday challenges are not much different than you’d expect—a busy schedule, misplaced paperwork, a mishap with the beer order—but in the grand scheme of things, Ratliff knows that these little “hardships” are necessary for building and maintaining a brand that is valuable to Hoosiers.

“Innovation and empathy” are what give an institution its strength, he believes. With that in mind, Ratliff aims to incorporate his artistic essence into everything he does at Newfields. It takes a thoughtful, intricate process to earn customers’ trust and hold their attention, and it is up to Ratliff to stay on his toes, adherent to their demands and desires. Thanks to him, visitors at Newfields can enjoy a sip in the Beer Garden (and soon the Tea House) and, if planned accordingly, a one-of-a-kind meal to celebrate the institution.

Josh Ratliff
Director of Culinary Arts at Newfields
4000 Michigan Rd.
Indianapolis, 46208-3326

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