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Members on the Menu: Justin Guthrie

February 28, 2014

Justin Guthrie

Justin, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, has called DC home for 12 years.  He is the former general manager of Estadio, and the current GM of Doi Moi where they specialize in cuisine inspired by the street food of Southeast Asia. 

What is the hardest part about managing a restaurant?

This job requires manpower, long hours, and focus. It’s demanding and you have to be committed and prepared to be on call all the time. It can be tough, but I enjoy it.  It would be terrible if you didn’t love it.  

…and the most rewarding part?

I like the ability to create jobs and give people the opportunity to find success in this field, or to have a place to do good work and make money while they are pursuing dreams in another career field.

Where do you look for inspiration when putting your menu together?

We like to have our own ideas and create new things for the menu, but we also look to industry beacons for guidance and inspiration and to build upon our concepts.  For Estadio we look to Casa Mono, and for the Doi Moi menu we look to Pok Pok (both in New York City).  We  see what others are doing but we strive to put something new out there and create a new experience for our patrons.

How is your restaurant influenced by its neighborhood location?

Our location (1800 14th Street NW) and the close proximity of so many other restaurants nearby means we can’t coast.  We have to be on our game, create a good product, and deliver on hospitality.

How did you get started in the business?

My father owned a restaurant and growing up I didn’t think I wanted to work in the industry because it seemed too difficult and demanding.  But when I was in college and in my 20s I worked with some great mentors who really helped motivate and inspire me.  I discovered that even though I was working hard and was exhausted, I was fulfilled and doing something I loved.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

That’s hard to say.  I keep making a five-year plan and five years later my plans have changed!  If you had asked me five years ago if I’d be managing a Thai street food restaurant I’d say no way – no chance!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It was years ago when I was involved with a really intense situation with a guest. The exchange went poorly and I was upset and flustered.  A good friend of mine pulled me aside and said, “In a month from now this is going to be a really hilarious story.  So just relax and don’t take it so hard.”  He was right and I pass along that same advice to others now.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I’d be an auto mechanic  - although I try not to talk about it too much or everyone will ask me to work on their cars.

What song always makes you happy?

Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere”

What’s your favorite DC spot?

The Round Robin Bar in the Willard.  It’s one of the spots where you can be part of so much history. It’s a place where presidents and generals used to go to sit and drink more than 100 years ago - and you can still have a cocktail there.  Before I lived in DC I used to dream about going to places like it.

Other than your own – what is your favorite DC restaurant?

2Amys.  It’s kind of an industry hangout in the city.  But I go there for the food – it’s really good food.

What is your favorite ingredient?

When I cook I’m capable of preparing really nice things, but there’s nothing better than putting a rib eye on the grill.  It’s so easy and so good.

You’re hosting a dream dinner party.  What three people would be at your table?

George Brett (retired major league third baseman for the Kansas City Royals), author Raymond Carver, and my father.

It’s the last meal of your life  - what’s on your plate?

Shrimp cocktail, wedge salad, creamed spinach, and that rib eye steak I talked about earlier.

What are your pet peeves?

Unreasonable, selfish people

What is your favorite way to give back to the community?

Within our company we try to take care of our own as a way of giving back.  We try to help people who can’t take care of themselves, or who are facing difficulties and have unexpected situations.  When we see needs within our company we come together to meet them

What’s your favorite go-to junk food?

Cracker Jack