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Brian Jupiter: “Cooking is about more than delicious flavors”

Cooking is about more than delicious flavors. To create a dish that guests go crazy over, you have to add elements of nostalgia and emotionally connect through food. If your dishes can transport guests to a different time or perhaps experience, they’ll leave your restaurant with long-lasting and fond memories centered around your cuisine. I had […]

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Cooking is about more than delicious flavors. To create a dish that guests go crazy over, you have to add elements of nostalgia and emotionally connect through food. If your dishes can transport guests to a different time or perhaps experience, they’ll leave your restaurant with long-lasting and fond memories centered around your cuisine.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Brian Jupiter.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Executive Chef Brian Jupiter has always believed that Southern comfort food is a true art form. Pulling inspiration from closely held family secrets and recipes, Jupiter spent his childhood alongside his grandmother in her kitchen. After beginning his professional career at the age of 16 in the kitchen of New Orleans’ famed Aurora Steakhouse, Jupiter eventually moved to Miami, Florida to pursue degrees in Culinary Arts and Food & Beverage Management. In 2003, Jupiter made the move to Chicago to fill the role as Chef de Cuisine, and eventually Executive Chef, at Narcisse Champagne and Caviar Salon. He later became an integral part of the menu development for the opening of Frontier in 2010 and Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods in 2018, as Executive Chef of Pioneer Tavern Group.

Chef Jupiter’s accolades and television appearances include 2019 & 2020 James Beard Awards Semifinalist for “Best Chef: Great Lakes”, 2020 Michelin Bib Gourmand, Cooking Channel’s “America’s Best Bites”, NBC Chicago News, NBC’s “1st Look”, Fox 32 Chicago News, WGN-TV News, Food Network, and “Check, Please!”.


Thank you for doing this with us Brian. Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

I spent a lot of my childhood in the kitchen cooking with my family, and I loved it. As a kid, I would always help my grandmother cook Mirliton (also known as Chayote), which we would stuff with squash and shrimp; we’d boil it, add shrimp then bake it. I really enjoyed the aspect of bringing family, friends and community together over something delicious. This is something that I’ve always been passionate about and it led me to where I am today. But, I’d have to say, that being in the kitchen with my grandmother is what inspired me most in pursuing my career as a chef.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

I don’t like to pigeonhole the menus at Frontier and Ina Mae into one category, but they lean towards Southern-inspired cooking. My connection to food comes from quality time in the kitchen with my family, cooking recipes that have been passed down from generations. The food at Ina Mae and Frontier is inspired by my background, growing up, eating, and cooking in New Orleans. In fact, Ina Mae is named after my great grandmother. She was the backbone of our family and passed down recipes to my grandmother, with whom I spent a lot of time cooking with while growing up.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

I was a very young executive chef, so it was challenging trying to learn the ins and outs of the business while still performing as a manager, mentor, creative, and chef at a high level. I worked really hard during those early years. I studied, practiced, asked for feedback, and worked hard as not to make the same mistakes twice.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

Cooking is about more than delicious flavors. To create a dish that guests go crazy over, you have to add elements of nostalgia and emotionally connect through food. If your dishes can transport guests to a different time or perhaps experience, they’ll leave your restaurant with long-lasting and fond memories centered around your cuisine.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

I love authentic Mexican food. Authentic rice and beans with carne asada, or really anything spicy, is my perfect meal.

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

I love food, and at the end of the day, that love for flavor and cooking is what drives me to create different dishes. Food, flavors, and cooking techniques are always evolving, so it’s necessary to stay in touch with food trends, as those evolutions are huge sources of inspiration. I also think the competition, especially in Chicago where we are surrounded by so many talented restaurants and chefs, gives me that push to keep working hard and evolving so my restaurants can grow and stay relevant.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

Right now, we are really focused on what the future will look like surrounding COVID-19, which is hard to predict. In March, we had to close our dining rooms at Frontier and Ina Mae, but kept both restaurants open for delivery and takeout. We offered everything from cocktail and meal kits to virtual cooking classes. Our team worked quickly to get creative so that we didn’t miss a beat, and with the uncertainty of what the colder months will bring, we are hoping to keep our kitchens open and continue to serve our guests in some capacity. Right now, our focus is on survival.

What advice would you give to other chefs or restauranteurs to thrive and avoid burnout?

It’s hard to get burnt out when you really love what you’re doing, but if you’re starting to feel fatigued, you need to take a step back and identify the cause of your burnout. At the end of the day, you’re working with food and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If cooking is something you love to do, go back to having fun with it. That energy will translate to your guests, too. Food tastes best when it’s made by someone who enjoys cooking and creating.

What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?

If you are visiting Ina Mae for the first time, our Boiled and Fried Seafood Towers are must-try dishes. These towers of fresh seafood like Crab Legs, Shrimp, Mussels, and Oysters served with Corn and Potatoes are the perfect dish for a small group to share. If you are visiting Frontier for the first time, gather a small group of friends and family and pre-order from our Whole Animal Menu, which includes options like Whole Pig or Whole Lamb, smoked over apple and cherry woods and served with a variety of sides. Our show-stopping dish at Frontier is a Whole-Smoked Alligator served with sides like Mac & Cheese, Jambalaya, and Veggies.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Marketing and building a brand for your restaurants and yourself is key so you have a platform to connect with current guests, future customers, and potential partners. Marketing is how you tell your story and expand your reach, from utilizing social media to partnering with brands and working with editors, it all goes into making the business a success.
  2. You’re not only a chef, but a manager, business owner, personality, marketer, and creator. To be successful and do your job well, you have to wear many hats, some of which you may not feel prepared for. You’re constantly learning how to improve your skills in the kitchen, but you’ll also need to develop a business sense and leadership skills.
  3. You need to be adaptable and willing to grow. This applies to your food, but also your business model. COVID-19 was a harsh reminder that restaurants need to be able to pivot quickly and introduce new offerings that align with the current landscape.
  4. Be thoughtful about your time. Working in the restaurant industry means long hours, so make sure you do something for yourself every day, whether it’s spending time with friends and family or perfecting your hobby. Taking time for yourself will re-energize you and make you even better at your job.
  5. You need to become a great multi-tasker. There are so many things happening in the kitchen at all times during service, and as the executive chef, you need to make sure everything is running smoothly. From plating, to dish washing, to team communication, everything has to be working in unison so your guests have the best possible experience.
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