Season 4 EP 4
November 24, 2021
Martha Hoover, Founder of Patachou, Inc. Restaurateur. Industry disruptor. Beautiful thinker.
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Martha Hoover has been on my radar since the early 90’s when she changed the corner of my childhood neighborhood hangout, creating a restaurant for the neighborhood that would start a culinary movement in Indianapolis. Her story of evolving from a sex crimes prosecutor to restaurateur makes her a force, bringing savvy and hustle to an industry that has helped put Indianapolis on the culinary map. Her passion for the people in her employ and the underserved in our community is real and inspiring.

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Patachou Goes Beyond the Plate

“When we first started in 1989, restaurants were all about just the food, including Patachou. What distinguished us was that we cared about seasonality, about local, things that were not even in the mainstream yet. No one was talking farm to table for another 12 to 15 years. At that time, it truly was just about the plate. And I quickly became acutely aware of the need for restaurants to go beyond the plate.”

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What A Restaurant Can Do

“I had never worked in the restaurant industry, and I did not know I was pregnant with my third child. All of that in 1989 should have been the ultimate recipe for disaster. And instead, honestly, it was the recipe for a perfect souffle. Had I come out of a traditional restaurant job, I would not be in the place I am today. And my company would not be in the place it is today.”

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Why Martha Hoover Hates the Word “Empowerment”

Martha is passionate about elevating her restaurants’ employees. Matthew Felttrop, who started as a waiter at Napolese, now serves as executive director of the Patachou Foundation and is getting his Masters Degree in Community Health at Johns Hopkins. ”My organization has been around for 32 years now. And we’ve always believed in the future potential of people in my organization. And I've created opportunities for them without feeling that it diminishes my power. I think that’s what healthy organizations, healthy businesses, and healthy relationships do. So I think when you use the word empowerment, it sounds like there's this scale and I'm giving something of myself. In the future, I'd like to see everyone understand their own ability without having to wait for someone to give them something.”

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Patachou Hits Hunger Where It Hurts

The Patachou Foundation works to combat hunger and food insecurity for children in Indianapolis, with the help of volunteers who prepare meals for schools. “When we established the Patachou Foundation in 1989, the company donated financially to organizations in Indianapolis. At the end of every giving cycle, we would sit back and look at what we’ve done to impact the community. I realized that every year we really weren't having the impact that we should have. And some of that was because we were giving money or giving donations in a scattershot way. So I started looking very deeply into what was then called food insecurity in our own community and decided that we would be much more impactful if we really concentrated our efforts into this one area. And that's when the Patachou Foundation became the Patachou Foundation.”

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Introducing Culinary Culture to Indianapolis

Patachou, Inc has created other restaurant concepts across Indianapolis such as Napolese (an artisanal pizzeria), Public Greens (a farm market inspired urban kitchen), and Apocalypse Burger. “I created a lot of our different restaurant concepts because I was hungry for other kinds of food. For instance, I opened up Napolese because I used to travel a lot and I wasn't getting the kind of pizza that I wanted to eat in Indianapolis. That's also why I opened up Patachou in the first place. There was no place that served the kind of food I was making for my kids at home. And I never thought of myself as being unique. I thought, well, if I want this kind of food, I am sure there are other people who want this kind of food.”

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Spinning the Classics

Bar One Fourteen is Martha’s newest restaurant creation, a small bar and listening room. “When my father died, he left me two things: his microscope and his vinyl collection I went through thousands of vinyls, and I found that he had also saved all the albums my older sister and I bought when we were in junior high. It just harkened me back to the days where I would run to a record store and go back home and open it and read the liner notes as if it was Shakespeare. So I rediscovered all this vinyl, and I decided to start this kind of bar listening room dedicated to these 2000 vinyls that I had in my collection. And Bar One Fourteen was born out of that.”

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There’s More to Motherhood

Martha has three children, but she won’t allow motherhood hinder or define her persona as a successful businesswoman. “Motherhood, as it has been defined historically, has really been a partially oppressive word and a partially oppressive system. I’m a mother, and I’m very proud of what I've accomplished in 40 years being married with three children. But I felt very confined by culture's view of motherhood because it did not work for my view of myself, or my view of motherhood. Most of my friends and colleagues, and society in general, really narrowly define who gets to be called a mother, or who’s responsible for nurturing. And there are a lot of ramifications that go with that societal definition.”

Beautiful Thinking is:

“understanding that each minute you live as a remarkable gift, and you have a duty to put forth more positive energy and work into the world than you do in taking energy from the world.”