The self-proclaimed “Rebel with a Culinary Cause,” Justin Warner has earned himself a spot on this list with his inventive and daring approach to cooking. If you’re a fan of cookbooks, you’ve probably heard his name before; Justin is the author of “The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them,” published in 2015. And if you’re a Food Network viewer, you’ve seen Justin before- he won the “Food Network Star” competition in Season 8. Justin’s first appearance on the Food Network was in 2010, when he appeared on (and won) an episode of “24-Hour Restaurant Battle” with his then-girlfriend. Though Justin and J.J. won that episode with their concept for a brunch-centric restaurant, the restaurant never materialized. In 2013, Justin also debuted a pilot on Food Network called “Rebel Eats.”
Justin’s introduction to the culinary world began when he was a child and was inspired to learn to cook by his father. In high school, Justin was a student assistant, and he would often bring his culinary experiments to a retired principal who provided feedback. This feedback served Justin well later in life, when he opened Do or Dine in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood; his efforts in the kitchen also earned him a Michelin Bib Gourmand award. Sadly, Do or Dine closed in 2015, but given Justin’s obvious talent in the kitchen, it’s only a matter of time before we hear from him again.
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A lack of any formal training might pose limitations to a less-inventive chef, but at Do or Dine, Justin turned a potential disadvantage into a positive. The dishes at Do or Dine were a blend of a variety of different culinary styles and a mishmash of traditional fare with esoteric ingredients.
Snack offerings included Nippon nachos with gouda, cheddar and masago sour cream; frog legs with a spicy Dr. Pepper glaze; venison wontons with jarlsberg cheese; skipjack tuna crudo with bay water, leek and ginger; shishito with yuzu, wasabi, hickory and green tea; miso grilled corn with kewpie and togarashi.
The small plates drew less from Japanese cuisine and leaned more towards a pan-European style of cooking. Menu items included foie gras doughnuts; fatty lamb breast with cumin and lime; hummus with black sesame tahini and vegetables; steak tartare with Bedford hill espresso aioli; grilled squid with wild mushroom aioli, and chilled cucumber soup with scallop ceviche, vanilla and crème fraiche.
The big plates were the result of a host of different culinary influences. Offerings included chicken and “woffals” with jerk seasoning, maple and pineapple; New Zealand duck breast with sansho, kiwi and fennel, pork chop with lemongrass, basil and peanut; and chimichangas with chickpeas, chermoula, and blackberries.