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🔪 MEET THE CHEF: Justin Woodard of The McMillan Kitchen & Bar in Flagstaff, Arizona

🔪 MEET THE CHEF: Justin Woodard of The McMillan Kitchen & Bar in Flagstaff, Arizona

Tripveel sat down with Executive Chef Justin Woodard of The McMillan Kitchen & Bar in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Where did you grow up and where have you traveled to that has helped inspire and shape your cooking philosophy? 

There are so many factors that have shaped my cooking philosophy of simplicity and
authenticity. Growing up primarily in Scottsdale, Arizona, I naturally picked up on what flavors the Southwest has to offer. But a visit the Pike Place fish market in Seattle, Washington is for me, like taking a trip down a memory lane when, as a kid, I would spend summers with my grandmother fishing and clamming. As I became serious about pursuing a career as a chef and developing more culinary skills I traveled to Paris and Mexico. Being able to experience the authenticity of the cuisine in its origin made a huge difference in how I approach my craft. My classical French training paired with my experience in regional Southwest ingredients and interest in Asian cuisine provide me my foundation and inspiration.

Tell our readers an interesting fact or two about yourself. 

Before my drive to become a chef intensified, I made a living as a creative animator. Now, I channel my creativity into developing thoughtful chef-driven menus for each of the Genuine Concepts brands. My passion for cooking has most recently landed me as a contestant and finalist on Chopped, a Food Network TV show.

Tell us about your absolute favorite food and why readers should try it if they haven’t already. 

My absolute favorite food would be fried clams. I highly recommend trying them at least once. The great smell of freshly caught fish and crustacea takes me back. It's a simple dish that has a perfect balance of fresh and clean.

What are three ingredients that you simply couldn’t live without? 

While there are many that come to mind, my must-have kitchen ingredients are garlic, salt and my personal favorite, vanilla.

We love the art behind plating. What do you love about designing the perfect dish? 

What I love about designing the perfect dish is when everything comes together. There are so many components that need to work together such as taste, flavor, color, shape, height, and even space on the plate. It can be challenging from time to time, but it’s as essential to the success of a dish as its taste and flavor.

Tell us about one of the most creative dishes you’ve created?

Black Cod & Fennel is probably is the most recent dish I have had the pleasure to create. It isn’t a complex dish but the flavor combination of the delicate, buttery texture of black cod with mild licorice—flavored fennel, play nicely together.

Share your most recent awards and accreditations with us! 

Overall, being the Executive Chef for Genuine Concepts and The McMillan has been very rewarding. I also recently ranked in the Top 25 for the 2019 James Beard Blended Burger Project with the Sonoran Burger. Creating a delicious, yet sustainable burger that contained at least 50% of mushrooms was challenging. My special spin on the burger was incorporating that Southwest flavor by using nopales (cactus).

What are some of the latest trends you’re seeing in top restaurants across the globe?

While trends come and go, two I've noticed that are escalating in restaurants are more healthy eating and global flavors. Today’s guest has become more receptive to experiencing unique cuisines and worldly flavors like Pilipino, Vietnamese and Asian. Now for chefs, bringing more authentic, globally focused cuisine to the table doesn't require a trip around the world.

What’s your favorite cocktail or liquor?

Bourbon is my go-to drink. The hints of vanilla and caramel notes of an Old Fashioned always appeal to me in any season.

What do you love about being Executive Chef at The McMillan Kitchen & Bar in Flagstaff, Arizona?

While working at Genuine Concepts, I have that rare opportunity and freedom to explore a variety of cuisines through the various brands and continually expand upon my culinary repertoire. Specifically, for The McMillan my focus is on creating quality, American classic fairs that pair nicely with local brews on tap and crafted cocktails. Through the ‘Community Handle Program,’ we partner with local breweries to offer support to community organizations with a percentage of sales being donated to charity. Collaborating with like-minded businesses for great causes is always a win-win.



🔪 MEET THE CHEF: Robert Vargo of LeMont Restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

🔪 MEET THE CHEF: Robert Vargo of LeMont Restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania