D'Amico Kitchen's Justin Frederick: Chef Chat, Part 2

The Chambers Hotel, where D'Amico Kitchen is run by chef Justin Frederick.
The Chambers Hotel, where D'Amico Kitchen is run by chef Justin Frederick.

Today we bring you the second part of our chef chat with Justin Frederick of D'Amico Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. (Here's part 1.) Yesterday Frederick told us about his sources of inspiration and how he ended up as a chef; today we talk with him about the day-to-day work in the kitchen. Frederick shares why he likes working for D'Amico, what he expects from kitchen staff, and his hopes for the future of the restaurant.

What have your first few months heading up D'Amico Kitchen been like? It is a beast. It's connected to the hotel, so there's an obligation to have food available all the time, and that you're open every day of the year. I'm here a lot. I have a whole new staff pretty much. So it's been a lot of work.

What do you like about working there? We use really good-quality ingredients here. The owners are very adamant that we do that. So that's really cool.

The kitchen is ridiculous. It was designed by Jean-Georges [Vongerichten]. It's the nicest kitchen I've ever worked in. Everyone out there in their kitchens drive Fiestas, and I'm riding in a Rolls Royce. It's ridiculous.

How did you get the head chef job at D'Amico Kitchen? An opportunity came up for me at Masa, I worked there for three years. Another opportunity presented itself, and I came here.

Who are some of the purveyors you're using now? Right now I'm using Honolulu Fish Company. Today I'm getting 20 pounds of sashimi-grade big tuna (basically ahi) flown in. We use it on antipasti here, and it's also on one of our pasta dishes. I would put the quality of this fish against sushi-shop quality.

It's hard with fish when we're in a landlocked state. It's a real fickle business, especially in summer when it's hot, because fish is so perishable. But this company is great. You call them before noon and they tell you what just came in that day, since they're five hours behind us. You tell them what you want, they put it in the box and ship it to us, and it's here the next day. You're never had fish like that. It still smells alive.

What are the essential qualities you require in kitchen staff? It's a fundamental understanding of respect. All anybody wants at the end of the day is respect. It might sound like a general thing to say, but its application and what lies behind it is immense. If you do a good job, that's respect--respect for yourself, respect for the job. With food, you respect the food. You respect your coworkers. Nobody wants to be disrespected. And if you treat people with respect it pays off in spades.

What has been your proudest moment on a personal level? When you get through a busy night and everybody's on the same page, and everybody's keeping up with each other.

What are your future plans for the restaurant? Looking into the future, I'm looking forward and up. I want to increase and enhance the experience here with the food and create a really good work environment, where people who I have working here are dorks for food. They're not coming in for a paycheck; they're coming in because they love food so much.

I do have a four-year bachelor's in business, so I want the formula to work. The formula is a sequence of events and equations that need to click in order to bring it to the bottom line, bring it to our guests' experience with service and with food, to bring it to the employees and the staff to work in an environment where they want to come in to work each day. It's an infrastructure sort of approach.

And just do really fun things with food. It's not about me. I'm only as important as the person standing next to me. I don't want recognition; I don't care for that. It's at the end of the day what you've produced with the people standing next to you.

Our chat with Justin Frederick continues tomorrow.

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D'Amico Kitchen - Closed

901 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403



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