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Food enthusiasts got their first taste of the test kitchen Feb. 1 when its three food stands launched inside the Fishers District.

Indianapolis Star

Fishers Test Kitchen is searching for a new restaurant concept to fill an accelerator space following the departure of Natural State Provision this week.

The Southern comfort food counter-service concept — one of three in the inaugural cohort at the culinary incubator at the Sun King Innovation Brewery in the Yard at Fishers District that launched in February — was asked to leave, said test kitchen co-founder John Wechsler, though he wouldn’t elaborate.

“We wish them well at King Dough,” he said. “This was time for us to bring another concept in.”

The move caught Natural State owners Adam and Alicia Sweet off guard, they said in an emailed statement.

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Free-er Bird, fried chicken thigh, coleslaw, and dijon on a sesame seed bun, $9, from Natural State Provisions at the Fishers Test Kitchen an Sun King Brewery, in The Yard at Fishers District, 9713 District North Drive, Suite #1210, Fishers, Ind., 46037, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.  (Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

“Although our experience with Fishers Test Kitchen has been challenging from the beginning, we remained positive and committed to the initiative. We are very surprised and disappointed by how we’ve been treated, especially for our employees’ sudden job loss during a pandemic,” they said. “We’re regrouping and exploring future opportunities that will be a better fit for Natural State Provisions.” 

Natural State, which served up fried chicken sandwiches, root beer-glazed pulled pork and collards and was themed for chef Adam Sweet’s native Arkansas, had 11 employees at the Fishers space.

The Sweets, who also own King Dough pizzeria, 452 N. Highland Ave., were approached to join the project 22 days before its launch, replacing another chef who backed out. They’d hoped to grow it into its own brick and mortar.

The culinary accelerator that tech startup advocate Wechsler and local foodie Jolene Ketzenberger started in partnership with the city of Fishers was designed to have chefs try restaurant ideas and leave on a staggered schedule. It would add to the local culinary scene and save startups some of the hefty costs of equipment, leases and other elements needed to prove their concepts.

The two other initial concepts at the facility are Korean street food Korave Korean BBQ and global street food purveyor Lil Dumplings.

Fishers Test Kitchen is now taking applications for a popup to occupy the counter-service restaurant stall vacated by Natural State. The temporary occupant will move in October and could be considered for a longer stint, Wechsler said.

“As the other two concepts evolve, we’re already into the window of less than a year for them to graduate out into their own space,” he said, “We want to keep an ongoing dialogue with the marketplace of chefs and restaurateurs.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Cheryl V. Jackson at [email protected] or 317-444-6264. Follow her on Twitter: @cherylvjackson.

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