FOURty Seconds with Justin Yu

17 Dec 2015
3 min read
After working at notable restaurants such as *17 in Houston, Green Zebra and Spring Restaurants in Chicago, and Ubuntu in Napa, Justin then went on to open Oxheart in his Houston hometown. Now he will be appearing at Christopher Kostow’s charity event at Meadowood on December 18th, FOUR speaks to him about what he has planned for the big night…

Why did you accept the invitation to participate in the 2015 Twelve Days of Christmas charity event at The Restaurant at Meadowood?

I would be crazy not to. Guys like me have observed 12 days from afar for years. I never thought someone like me might even be considered to cook in a kitchen like that, much less do our own food. When a chef like Chef Kostow asks you to come and take part in something special like that, there is no way not to feel a surge of excitement to go.

What are you most looking forward to about the Twelve Days of Christmas event at The Restaurant at Meadowood?

I’m excited to be working with their garden and their staff. Cooking at ubuntu four or five years ago, I miss the California growing season dreadfully. Somedays I don’t even think it’s even fair how beautiful the vegetables are that they can get. Secondarily, I know they play music in their kitchen, I’m also looking forward to try to sneak in some Taylor Swift on Chef’s playlist.

Can you tell us a bit about what you will be doing on your evening- any hints at what might be served to guests?

It’ll be a general representation of what we do at Oxheart, mostly focused on interesting, not obvious preparations of vegetables and simple preparations of meat or fish. It’s a couple of dishes that we’ve fine tuned through our short time that we’ve been open. It’s a little Asian, a little southern, and only refined in the places that make sense to me. In a kitchen that cooks as well and is as fine tuned as Meadowood, we really have to push our heart and passion into the food just to stand up to their courses.

Where did you get yourinspiration for the menu you will serve?

Much of it is a mix of what I’m eating and interested in at the moment. A lot of the time, menus are very much inspired by places I’ve travelled to recently, or memorable dishes that I’ve had recently. It’s married into the food we’ve cooked and evolved over time.

Describe your culinary style…

I tend to either put a lot of work into ingredients to layer them, or nothing at all. There isn’t really much of a middle ground with our food. Also, I guess it’s a little obvious that I’m Asian.

What are your most indispensable ingredients?

Salt. With as harsh as our summers are, and how monotonous our growing seasons are, we don’t have a ridiculously large variety of vegetables and fish. Learning how to cure, ferment, and preserve, and dry over the last few years have very much expanded our ability to create new flavors that might be new or exciting.

What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

Probably cooking the Harvest Dinner at Willows Inn two years ago. Cooking with those chefs at that amazing restaurant was insane, memorable, and a lot of fun.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?

Stop worrying about creating “your own thing” and realize that doing someone else’s thing for a while is immensely valuable.

What’s next for you?

I’d love to get together a group of chefs to compete on America Best Dance Crew.

What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

Asador Extebarri. I’d like to also actually sit down and eat at in De Wulf, since I never had a chance to eat there when I did a stage there.

Find out more about the ‘Twelve days of Christmas’ event at restaurant Meadowood