Fire & Ferment
Justin James knew he wanted to be a chef since he was 10 years old. Raised in Michigan USA, his first job was a busser at the age of sixteen. Within two weeks, Justin was transferred into the kitchen. The noise, atmosphere and culture in the kitchen caught him and he has never looked back.
Early on in his career, Justin was trained by two Maîtres Cuisiniers de France before travelling throughout the States to explore unique styles of food and culture at some of America’s best restaurants including Blue Hill at Sone Barns and finishing his time in the States at Eleven Madison Park where he stayed for three and half years.
Justin decided to travel to the other end of the world and ended up calling Australia home. He made his debut at Vue de monde in 2014, and quickly rose from Commis to Sous Chef to Head Chef and then Executive Chef.
In his continual search for different cuisine, Justin moved to Denmark in 2017 to start a new chapter and worked at Noma. After spending a year in Denmark, Justin realised that Australia was where he wanted to be.
Upon Justin’s return to Melbourne, he was appointed Executive Chef of Vue de monde and Vue Group. At Vue de monde, Justin focused on pushing the boundaries of Australian cuisine and he placed significant importance on the guest experience while collecting multiple accolades along the way.
In early 2021, Justin took the position of executive chef at Botanic Gardens Restaurant. Justin came over to Adelaide to lead the renovations and concept to create a new world class dining experience in Adelaide.
In July 2021, Restaurant Botanic was born. Justin focuses on the idea of time and place by using what is in season and produce directly from Adelaide’s Botanical Garden to create his 18-course tasting menu, while also focusing on the total guest experience. Within the first three months of being opened, Restaurant Botanic won Gourmet Traveller’s best restaurant in SA and has collected multiple acknowledgements from the media including best new restaurant by The Advertiser and top ten restaurants in SA by the Good Food Guide.
What’s key for Justin is to tell the narrative of the cuisine but not overtly to keep some mystery. It is a fine line but when done right, it is a beautiful experience. Seasonality, locality, native Australian produce, fermentation, cooking over fire, phenomenal products, and culture drive Justin.