Almost daily, someone asks me "what's so-and-so (insert name of celebrity chef) really like?"
So I decided to create a new monthly feature with little known personal facts about some of your favorite celebrity chefs and Food Network stars. My first interview had to be with my Food Network Star BFF Justin Warner.
Here's the scoop:
I first met Chef Justin Warner of Brooklyn's award-winning Do or Dine restaurant as we were both sitting in a holding pen at Alton Brown's studio in Atlanta, Georgia on November 2, 2011. We were there to audition for Season 8 of Food Network Star and Alton was to select his team from the 50 or so people assembled. Months later, when I arrived to film the show, it was no surprise to find Justin there, too. I was blessed to have Justin by my side day in and day out on Team Alton. When I needed help, he was there for me. He made me laugh. He had/has unique insight. He has years of valuable culinary experience from working in some of New York's finest restaurants---which I lacked. Justin was generous and happy to share his knowledge with me. We bonded. On several occasions, I absolutely would not have finished plating if he had not helped me. (see photo below of the 4-handed plating from our "Meet the Press" episode).
What you may not know about Justin is that he was named to Forbes' Top 30 Under 30 list as well as Zagat's Top 30 Under 30 NYC. His restaurant has a Michelin rating. He's been written about in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and he makes regular appearances on Food Network shows. He just opened for Alton Brown's Edible Inevitable Tour at the legendary Beacon Theatre in New York. That's pretty good for a guy who has owned a restaurant for a mere three years in the most competitive restaurant market in the world. Maybe one day the rest of the world will catch on to what I and the folks at TheBraiser.com already know... This hipster is a lot smarter than you think and is nothing short of remarkable. Read what they had to say about Justin and why he doesn't have a show on Food Network.
The #1 question I'm asked about Justin is: Does Justin Warner wear lipstick? In fact, when you Google Justin Warner, one of the items that search populates is Justin Warner lips. Really? The answer is, of course not. He is lucky to have naturally tinted tips any girl would die for. He uses Burt's Bees lip balm on them but not lipstick. Get over it, folks. Justin Warner does not wear lipstick. I promise.
The other question I'm frequently asked about Justin is: Are you and Justin really friends or was that made up for the show? We were and are real friends. I know we are kind of an odd pair. You'd never guess a quirky, hipster, skinny jeans wearing, Danny Meyer (The Modern, Union Square, Blue Smoke, Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack) trained restaurant rat turned restaurant owner from Brooklyn who raps about food and wine could actually be friends with or have anything in common with a home cook-wedding expert from Alabama who loves entertaining, farm life, polo, Hermes scarves, and Southern rock. I was shocked he knew all the words to the iconic Don McLean song American Pie and he was shocked I would often break out an Eminem rap. We have more in common than it may appear. We are both entrepreneurs. We've both had a job since the age of 12. He's got a good heart. I learn a lot from him. He's extremely interesting and well read. He's a trusted advisor and a close confidant. I'm thankful we met on the show and I'm so happy we remain the best of friends to this day.
Q & A WITH CHEF & FOOD NETWORK STAR JUSTIN WARNER
Where you’re from: I was born in Hagerstown, Maryland. I spent summers and quite a few years in the Front Range of Colorado. I consider both to be home.
City of residence: I live in Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood called Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Where you’d love to live someday: I absolutely must spend a month or two in Japan. I don’t know where I’d like to begin my family. It’s a tough decision.
Family: I live with the best woman on earth, Brooke Sweeten. We have two turtles; Soupy and Aristurtle, two cats; Merf and Luci, and an awesome dog; Kewpie.
Mentor: Every boss I’ve ever had has done something to alter my trajectory. Alton Brown, though, got me in to TV, so I owe him a bunch of credit.
What is your favorite quote? “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving” is the first thing that came to mind. That was some dude named Laozi.
Best advice you ever got? That’s tough. I had a boss named Bill Eichelberger who told me we were in business to make “friends, not money”. I try to live by that.
Favorite book? Paul’s Case, by Willa Cather
Justin's ultimate dinner party guest list would include these four: Jay Z, Mike Nichols, Lana Del Rey, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
And if you had to cook for them, what would you make? Barbecue, and some fun little hors d’oeuvres.
What are you listening to right now? Pretty much whatever my girlfriend is playing. She has the best taste in music. Future Islands is pretty rad. I love the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Lana Del Rey is good for writing and zoning out.
Favorite cookbook of all time: The Laws of Cooking and How to Break Them, Warner, 2015 Flatiron Books
Latest accomplishment? I finished writing my first cookbook. It should be pretty good. (Editor’s note: It is.)
Guilty pleasure? Bad rap music, Sour Patch Kids, canned beer, Legos, video games.
Favorite travel destination: Rapid City, South Dakota. My girlfriend lived there as a kid and her parents are there. It’s a convenient, pretty, fun little place.
Where do you want to go you haven’t been yet? Japan, but also the Spanish speaking countries in South America.
Must have travel accessory: Just my comfortable Dansko shoes.
Best advice, tool, or equipment for the home cook? The offset spatula is one of my favorite multi-taskers. It’s probably also the most often overlooked by the home cook.
One of my favorite take-aways from Food Network star was Justin's tempura recipe. He used it for a food court challenge when we had to create a pop-up Italian themed restaurant. His Frito Misto was a hit with our guests and this tempura batter is why. It's light and airy, yet extremely crunchy. The secret is in the rice flour and club soda combo. I love this recipe for fish filets and shrimp; it does not create a soggy or heavy exterior on delicate seafood. Get the recipe...