Justin started his culinary career in a small joint in his hometown of Dodgeville, WI called Dino's. In Justin's own words, "Dino's is where it all started for me. I couldn't help but fall in love with the grill and the prime rib. After a few years of manning the helm at Dino's, I packed my bags, took old Dean's advice, and boarded a plane for New Zealand." (No doubt to also check out the filming locations of Lord of the Rings). There was just something about New Zealand that started a fire in his culinary desire that has yet to burn out.
Back fresh and energized from New Zealand, Justin enrolled in culinary school.
“I packed my knife kit and headed to culinary school in Minneapolis. Although it was a great experience, I yearned to return to the cooking line. I worked at some small places in Minneapolis and then to Chicago. I got an apprentice position at Copperblue Restaurant. It was there that I learned the importance of quality local ingredients and discovered new culinary techniques.”
From there, Justin headed back to Wisconsin to the great culinary scene of Madison. While there, he worked in a bakery, Etoile and at Harvest, one of America's best farm-to-table restaurants.
“I was offered a job as Executive Chef at Sontes here in Rochester. I loaded up the car and never looked back. I was the Chef at Sontes for a little over four years before I ended up working for Jerry and LeeAnn at ZZest. Sure, I have left a couple of times to work in Chicago and California, but the atmosphere and family camaraderie that is ZZest has always brought me back.”
Working in Napa, CA was at the 3-star Michelin restaurant Meadowwood. Each time he came back more enthusiastic to bring Rochester all he had learned.
Justin has been tirelessly working non-stop; first opening up Hot Chip Burger Bar, then coming up with the idea for Porch Fried Chicken, next taking on the task of creating a mini ZZest within Cellar, then obtaining ownership of North Mr. Pizza, and he's not done yet! Boxcar Hippie opened during the pandemic, and will re-open again with Justin leading the way. He always has more ideas up his sleeve, and he will not stop anytime soon. So, keep an eye out, as there's always more to come!
There's never a shortage of ideas up in this head...
Keep an eye out for them!
Why yes, that is my charming voice on the voicemails at all of our locations- OOH HAH HAH!
(Either you love it, or you hate it.)
I always thought my dream job when I grew up would either be a shopper lady or a cat. Spoiler alert, neither option came to fruition, although I got pretty close to becoming a cat. Having grown up in restaurants my entire life- literally, there were many excruciating days of waiting around for my dad to do something at one of his restaurants, while my brother and I rode the elevators and ate French baguettes- I've learned a lot of the ins and outs of the restaurant biz.
The majority of what I do is behind the scenes, case in point this website. I once owned and operated my own photography studio, and have taken those photography skills into the restaurants. Any photos for online ordering, 3rd party delivery sites, websites, social media, are typically done by me. I love photography, and although I'd prefer portraits over food, I'm glad I get to use these skills on an almost day-to-day basis. Apart from photography, I'll be the first one to jump up and volunteer to be in a company video, (ahh, the days of the Hot Chip video series). Typically, web design has fallen to me, but I've recently come into more design elements like signage, menu layouts, and marketing materials.
At my core, I will always be a creative and theatrical mind. (Even though the Myers-Brigg's test states that I'm an ENTJ, aka a "commander"). However, what I thought was a hinderance, actually is pretty useful towards running a business. I take great pride and effort into running and teaching management classes as well as service classes. These classes go beyond "just waiting on tables" because not all of our restaurants have servers to do so, and "just getting good service" does not always mean you had an amazing experience. I find teaching so important, and thrive on being able to push everyone to their highest potentials. As they say, those who can't do, teach (and those who can't teach, teach service classes). You may not necessarily see me in person, I just may be hiding behind my Mac somewhere, but hopefully you can see the Lindsay presence in the restaurants. After all, someone has to come up with all of those puns...
Other Major Players
The patriarch. Began in restaurants himself, and started opening his own in he '70s with The Bank Restaurant.
Jerry is an integral part of Championship Dining, and has taken over as the role of chief consultant. The restaurants would not run the same without his input.
The matriarch. LeeAnn was the creative mastermind behind ZZest (not Z-Zest, it's just zest) and continues her ingenuity through Food Union.
She continues to be a help with Championship Dining through her expert skills in design and decor.
Roxy is an amazing addition to the Championship Dining family. Her dedication to getting the job done and her commitment to excellence make her a perfect fit. Whether its running the dining room floor, or making sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes, Roxy is a power-house and a loyal individual.
Stef, with an f, plays a major role in Championship Dining. With her running the show as general manager of all the restaurants, she makes sure everything is in working order. Stef is in charge of organizing and coordinating any and all donations and charity events, covering schedules, managing staff, and keeping the restaurants up and running 24/7. Her hard work and commitment to the job just shows her amazing character-- and she always does it with a smile.