With a dream revisited in 2008, Chef Justin Ellingwood was living his life being a great husband and a dedicated father. Working as a delivery driver for FedEx for nearly 9 years, taking care of his family was (still is) his number one priority, and even though it was not his ideal job, Justin still went to work and stayed loyal.
As timing had it, it was 2008 and Justin and his wife were watching TV when a commercial for The Art Institute of Indianapolis glowed in front of his and his wife's eyes. The bond that he had with cooking emerged from some sort of forgotten space in his mind and with his wifes nudge, Justin journeyed back to memory lane and revisited a childhood dream.
Growing up in the “poster child” midwest state of Indiana, Justin was raised by two hardworking parents, because of this Justin's grandmother helped out by taking him to school each morning...but not before a home cooked breakfast. It was because of Justins nurturing grandmother that Justin grew fond of cooking and food.
Each morning before school Justin's grandmother would make him a hot breakfast of homemade pancakes, toast, eggs, and sausage to ensure his day started out the right way. The fun did not stop at his active tastebuds but rather on many occasions, Justin’s grandmother would invite him to help stir pancake batter and flip them just when the time was right.
That simple routine breakfast as youngster planted a seed that would eventually blossom decades later, once he and his wife decided he should take the jump and enroll into The Art Institute.
This is where Justin's Journey into cooking began.
Keep reading for some Q&A:
Q: What house are you currently working at?
A: When I first started with College Chefs I was cooking for the ladies at the #KappaKappaGamma house at #ButlerUniveristy, however there was a shift in the company when we added on another house and now I am cooking for the brothers of #DeltaTauDelta at #ButlerUniversity.
UPDATE: Starting Fall 2015 Justin moved to a supervisor position. Starting Fall 2016 Justin was promoted to Regional Director
Q: Having experience both cooking for sororities and now a fraternity is their any difference cooking for ladies VS. gentlemen?
A: Not too much of a difference however I can tell you this much, the #DeltaTauDelta brothers love their milk. [laughing] When I was cooking for #KappaKappaGamma I was ordering about 15 to 20 gallons of milk now I’m ordering about 50 gallons of milk.
Q: What inspires your dishes?
A: What I focused on the most before coming to College Chefs was Italian food, it’s what I loved most growing up. Most people think of Italian food as being mostly pasta, so I try to stay away from pasta dishes and show people that there's more to Italian food. But mostly I am into big flavor, I use vinegar and different spices to bring bold tastes to my dishes.
Q: Since you're interested in reading autobiographies on chefs, is there any book you would suggest and why?
A: I picked up Chef Paul Liebrandt book and literally read the whole thing within less than 24 hours. His back story is just really interesting to me. When he was 15 he lied about his age and said that he was much older so that he could start work as a dishwasher at a fine dining restaurant, from there he kept working his way up to eventually reaching the line. He was like 17 when people thought has was an adult cooking professionally as a chef. His dream was so vivid that he took the risk of dropping out of school and just being a brave kid on his own working off nothing, now he is a executive chef who prepares $300 dollar course meals and has received multiple michelin stars. He’s just a great success story who started into the industry in his own creative way.
Q: What was your proudest moment as a chef?
A: In 2010 when I was still in culinary school I got the chance to cook alongside Richard Blais who was the winner of Top Chefs All Stars. Chef Blais came to Indianapolis for a TV spot for a cooking demo at the Conrad Hotel. I knew beforehand that Chef Blais was coming to Indy because he tweeted about it and I follow him on Twitter, I just said to myself what the heck and sent him a message just stating that I am a current culinary student and that I would love to assist him for free if he needed the help. Several hours went by and to my amazement Chef Blais wrote me back and invited me to be his prep cook on the show.
Getting the chance to work alongside Chef Blais was a very enriching experience, after the show I told him a little more about myself and that I was debating on if I wanted to work in restaurants after culinary school or do something else. He replied back with not so much of an answer rather than a clarifying moment on whether or not I wanted to work long restaurant hours and not see my family or if I should go another route, however luck had it two years later I started work with College Chefs.I was able to do what I love and spend time with my family. College Chefs allows me to keep my dream of being a chef , to also be a father/husband and that’s something that my whole family is thankful for.