Twenty-six-year-old Justin Baradas is a known master in the kitchen today, but as a child, he always thought he would become a lawyer or a mathematician. The moment he discovered he would rather be working with a chef’s knife than reading a ton of books, he zeroed in on his real passion: culinary arts.
Aside from being chef de cuisine of Restaurant 101 at Enderun Colleges, Justin is also the executive chef at several restaurants he co-owns with a group of friends: Lan Kwai Speakeasy and Hong Kong Cuisine, Chichario Peri Peri Chicken + Cocktail Bar, and Ms Gee.
Here is his recipe for finding one’s passion:
What You Need:
- Early exposure. When he was growing up, Justin enjoyed weekend visits with his grandmother. His lola used to run a catering business from her home, and he spent a lot of time helping out in the kitchen. Eventually, he started cooking at home, too.
- Practice. While Justin was studying in culinary school, he made it a point to cook dinner for his family every evening. “Replicating what we did in class [gave me the chance to let them] taste my cooking and also to practice. [I served them] three- to five- course meals, which meant I had to wash a lot of dishes,” Justin recalls with a smile.
- Creativity. In coming up with his own recipes, Justin usually depends on what ingredients are in season. “I also try to remember something that I’ve eaten before and see how I can make it different yet still keep the original idea of the dish. Basically, I eat so I can create new dishes,” adds Justin.
- Challenge yourself. Justin trained with the best—he spent time with chef Thomas Wenger, now a senior culinary academic consultant at Enderun, and did his internship at the Michelin-starred Le Jules Verne in Paris. He says of his training experience, “It was very challenging and eye-opening. Challenging because of the language barrier, which I eventually overcame. Eye-opening because of how different the kitchen culture is. Everything there is fast-paced and you have to find a balance between speed and quality.”
- Get feedback. For Justin, the job doesn’t end after the food has been served to customers. “After a long service, I always like to go out to the dining room and greet my guests. It is so fulfilling to have a discussion with them about their meal—what they like and what they think could be better. Cooking is an endless learning [experience] that requires feedback, and serving a dish that’s better than last time is what drives me to learn,” Justin explains.
- Be open-minded. If there was one life skill Justin has learned from culinary arts, it’s that “one should always be like a sponge, open [to absorbing] new ideas.” He believes, “The time when we think that we are good, is the time that we stop learning.”
- Love your craft. Lastly, do everything with love. One lesson that stuck with Justin through the years: “Cook as if you’re cooking for your mother.”
What It Makes:
All this yields a consistent and silent worker like Justin. He shares that nothing annoys your chef more than the “Look what I can do!” attitude. A mentor once told Justin that a good chef will always notice if you are doing a good job. “So keep your eyes in front and always do your tasks with the best effort. Never think about finishing a task with ‘puwede na yan’ (that will do),” he says.
Being a young chef in the industry means that others will not always take you seriously, but Justin faces this challenge head-on. “I [make it a point] to show respect to the veterans because some of them have been cooking even way before I was born. I consider their suggestions, but at the same time, I remain firm in my decisions,” relates Justin.
The young chef is fully aware of his generation’s duty. He considers himself very lucky because past generations of chefs have already paved the way for the young ones to “innovate and uplift the cuisine in Manila.” Justin says it is now their turn to put the Philippines on the map when it comes to great cuisine.
Looking for a community where artists like Chef Justin can find a ready audience for their craft? You’ll find it at avidaland.com.