A fun Q&A with some of the state’s up-and-coming chefs as well as culinary superstars.

Photography by Sara Neal

JUSTIN PATTERSON (Online Exclusive)

owner chef / The Southern Gourmasian

Hometown: Lepanto, Arkansas

Are you a formally trained chef or an on-the-job-trained cook? Both. I spent about five years in restaurants cooking before I went to culinary school. School was useful, but nothing replaces cooking on the job every day.

Where were you trained? The International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute, The Tin Angel, Bound’ry & City House, all located in Nashville, Tenn.

How many years have you worked in the food industry? About 11.

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What or who inspired you to become a chef/cook? My desire to have a career doing something that I loved. I didn’t know anyone who did.

What was the first item or meal you prepared? I’m not sure, but there’s a video of me making biscuits with my great-grandma when I was 5 or 6 … surely no one let me near a stove before that.

What is your favorite meal to prepare? Anything that I haven’t cooked before.

What is your favorite meal? Anything thrown together out of my garden — food just tastes differently when you’ve grown it yourself.

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What is your favorite meal to eat out? Sunday afternoon at Riviera Maya with my family. It’s our only dining out of the week. It’s always good and it’s always fun. I think I’ve eaten the whole menu.

What is your favorite junk food? Dark chocolate peanut M&Ms and Baken-Ets spicy chicharrones — I’ve got junk food down to a science.

What is your favorite type of cuisine? Probably Thai or Italian, real Italian, not American Italian.

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What is your favorite utensil, gadget or piece of equipment? A Microplane grater; it’s just useful to add that last little bit of flavor to a dish.

Where do you find new recipes? Ideas for new recipes? The Internet, cookbooks, magazines, my garden … my brain becomes a revolving door, constantly processing new ideas in the background.

For whom would you most like to prepare a meal? My maternal grandmother, Mary Helen — she passed away before my cooking career took off.

Music or silence? Always music.

Salty or sweet? See junk food!

Bake or nah? Absolutely, there’s just too much cooking you can’t do without it.

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Beer, wine or cocktail? Give details. I actually don’t drink. I never have.

Do you cook at home? Yes. It’s usually something quick and thrown together while I’m raiding the cabinets with a 4-year-old and 17-month-old yelling at me to ignore what I’m doing and pay attention to them.

What food or meal do you wish you’d invented? Maybe bananas foster — there’s just no way it’s not impressive, and I’ve converted many banana haters with it.

What food trends do you like or hate the most? Online reviewing … wait that’s not a food trend; right?  I don’t particularly pay attention to trends. I’ve always been about what tastes good and that’s about it. I guess ‘healthy’ food bothers me more than anything. Unfortunately, over the past 50 years the definition of healthy food has changed more than anything. Customers ask for something healthy, but in reality have no idea what they are actually asking for.

 


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