To his customers, Joseph Hewett was known as a visionary and talented chef.
Fusing down-south flavors with modern haute cuisine, he turned his downtown Franklin restaurant the Indigo Duck into a dining experience unlike anything else in Johnson County.
But there was more to the man than his food. He was a warm, generous person, friends say.
Hewett, the 36-year-old owner and chef of the Indigo Duck, died early Tuesday morning. The cause of death was not available Tuesday.
The Franklin resident opened his restaurant in 2011. His idea was to combine the classic French training he received in culinary school with dishes from his native South Carolina.
Diners could find low-country shrimp and grits on the same menu as jerk-spiced salmon with Moroccan couscous salad and pine nut vinaigrette.
“He definitely brought a new style of cuisine to Franklin. It was a very nice atmosphere,” Megan Hart, executive director of Discover Downtown Franklin, said.
“He was always changing the menu and doing something new, but it was all new things that I don’t know that you could get anywhere else in the county.”
Hart first met Hewett when the restaurant opened. She approached him and his wife, Karen, to talk about a promotional event that Discover Downtown Franklin was hosting.
Not only was Hewett willing to take part in the event, but he was the first person to agree to help in any way possible.
“He was very generous and outgoing. Just a great person,” she said.
Under his direction, the Indigo Duck has become one of the most well-respected restaurants in central Indiana. The bistro was recently named one of the 25 best restaurants by Indianapolis Monthly and draws diners from all over Indiana to downtown Franklin.
The food was the draw to the Indigo Duck, but it was the personal touch that Joseph and Karen Hewett brought to the restaurant that made people come back, Hart said.
“They had a unique, interesting menu, but it was also the small friendly place where they’d learn your name after you ate there,” she said.
The family is planning services later this week at Swartz Family Community Mortuary and Memorial Center in Franklin.