Chef Justin Beckett has a reputation for being a culinary badass that stems from his relentless drive and lifelong passion for food.
Beckett started working in kitchens around the age of 14, went to culinary school four days after graduating high school, and was the youngest sous chef in the history of Roy's Hawaiian Fusion. He helped open Canal at Scottsdale Waterfront and became known as the "Social Media Chef" when he started blogging recipes from his home kitchen in preparation for his latest venture, Beckett's Table.
But beyond the overachiever persona, Beckett has a soft heart -- and some surprising hippie roots.
Humble beginnings: I'm the oldest of five children, so I had to chip in and run the house. I picked the kitchen. We grew up vegetarian and macrobiotic, eating things I think are terrible now. I started burning rice and tofu, and I just got better and better.
What was in your lunch bag at school? We had eco-friendly cold bags with the gel pack. My stuff came in Tupperware and was usually macrobiotic leftovers. It was definitely not tradable.
Testing, testing: Someone sent some money for me to take the SATs and I ended up spending the money on my girlfriend instead. It was our anniversary and I got her a ton of flowers.
When we went college-hunting in my junior and senior years, I looked for a college that didn't require SAT scores because I didn't want to tell anyone I'd spent the money on my girlfriend. So by default, I was thrown into culinary school.
School daze: I wasn't of age yet when I went to culinary school, so while everybody else was out drinking and partying, I was home studying and had a job cooking. Culinary school is a great foundation, but I think that your education really begins when you get out of school.
What would you do if you couldn't be a chef? I've always been really driven and really focused, so I don't understand the whole career change thing. I don't know what else I'd be
doing if I wasn't doing this. For me it's always been 'be younger, faster, better.'
Early exposure: My first job in the kitchen was in Hawaii making sandwiches and dishwashing. That was in 8th and 9th grades. From there, I've never been out of the culinary industry.
Living the island lifestyle: I lived in Maui for years. My parents were hippies, so we were
in Canada, California, Guatemala, Tucson, and Hawaii. I was in Hawaii for 8th, 9th and 10th grade. Unfortunately, when you're on Maui you're either super driven or you smoke a bunch of weed and surf every day.
Which one were you? I was very driven!
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Worst cooking disaster: I was a private chef and caretaker for a family; they were both doctors and worked themselves to the bone. I made chicken soup for them one night when they were sick and I accidentally left some of the chicken bones in the soup. They ate it and the bones scratched her neck and she spent the entire night in the emergency room. So I would consider that a failure.
What happened afterwards? I didn't get fired. I'm actually still friends with them.
Check back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Chef Justin Beckett.