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RAMW Member on the Menu Spotlight: Justus Frank

January 7, 2015

This month’s Member on the Menu spotlight features Justus Frank, Executive Chef at Alphonse

I am a Northern Virginia Native, having moved here when I was in 1st grade as part of an Army family.  My first restaurant experience in D.C. was at Notti Bianche and then Vermilion, both under Tony Chittum.  I also worked briefly under Chef Shannon Overmiller at the Majestic, and then 2 years under Miles Vaden at Eventide in Clarendon.  My most recent job was at Fiola, where I served as the opening Chef de Cuisine and then Executive Chef during my 3 year stint. 

What is the hardest part about being a chef?

Time away from family and friends, probably the most common complaint restaurant people have.

…and the most rewarding part?

Seeing the neighbors come back frequently, celebrating, and enjoying themselves with us.

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

Chefs I look up to, eating out, and reading lots of cookbooks.

How is your menu influenced by the neighborhood you are located in?

I designed the menus in both Alphonse and Nonna’s Kitchen, and the neighbors help me to make tweaks.

How did you get started in the business? What was your first job in the industry and what did you learn from it?

My first industry job was as a bus boy at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Spirits.  It taught me that people who work in the restaurant business are generally fun to be around. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Building my family and expanding my culinary abilities.

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

Work harder, faster and cleaner than everyone else.

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

Architect, or Farmer.

What’s your favorite DMV spot?

Room 11.  The whole staff does an amazing job.

What is your favorite ingredient?

Vinegar.  It can be used instead of salt and other seasonings to provide flavor and balance a dish.

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

Massimo Bottura (the best Italian Chef in the world), Alexander the Great (legendary General and King, never defeated in battle), and Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr. (creator of the world’s best reserve bourbon)

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

Cavatelli Amatriciana

What are your pet peeves?

Chefs not wearing aprons, tongs in the kitchen, people who say “irregardless”

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

I help my wife with community outreach programs through the elementary school at which she teaches.

What’s your favorite go-to junk food?

Spicier Nacho Doritos & Chilled Reese’s Cups