Yesterday Justin explained the nomination process for the James Beard Awards. Today we discuss changes he has implemented and what he does on his days off from work.
Eating Our Words: So four months later, what has changed?
Justin Basye: Haha, my responsibilities! Moving from sous to chef de cuisine has really helped me grow as a person, and the restaurant grew with me. I now feel priorities to protect this business and the staff inside its walls.
EOW: Who in the industry here has influenced your development as a chef?
JB: Bryan Caswell has a direct influence on my cuisine here at Stella Sola, but other chefs have helped my culinary repertoire as well. Randy Rucker and Chris Shepherd helped develop my palette to what it is now. From a management perspective, Bill Floyd [Reef, Stella Sola, Little Bigs] has given me the encouragement I needed to be a successful chef and manager. He also taught me to respect the front-of-house management even more.
EOW: Where do you go eat on a day off?
JB: Hong Kong Food Street in Chinatown puts me in a happy place. I also really enjoy Hori and Jean-Phillipe's cuisine at Kata Robata. Lunch at Beaver's is always a great deal at 12 bucks.
EOW: Since being on the industry hot list, how do you handle all the scrutiny from your peers?
JB: We took a firm stance on making sure every single customer gets the exact same level of attention. I am deeply honored to have so many restaurant professionals dining here, but I am focused on offering the same level of service to families and couples dining with us on their special night out. I want to make sure everyone is taken care of.
EOW: We noticed how crowded the bar is.
JB: We have a regulars-oriented table we call the community table in the bar. We offer the exact same menu in the bar as the restaurant, so if you are feeling a little more casual, head over to the bar and enjoy. We have regulars in the bar up to three times a week.
EOW: Are you a beer fan?
JB: I really enjoy exploring various microbrewed beer styles. I am digging "saisons"- farm house brews. The flora aspects of IPAs hit a special note with me, and my favorite beer at the moment is Dogfish Indian Brown.
EOW: What is a day off like in Justin's life?
JB: Goodness, I forgot. I used to go fishing and play golf on days off, but nowadays it is really hard just to not come in to Stella Sola every single day. I have put my hobbies on hold until we stabilize the rocket launch of an opening we had.
EOW: How has the opening been?
JB: We have consistently grown every month. We are beginning to remember regulars, and they keep coming in. At this rate I may need to clone myself.
EOW: So what would you suggest for a first timer at Stella Sola?
JB: Okay, here we go: Appetizer: Farmhouse Salad. Entrée: Wild Boar Ragu. Dessert: Pistachio Pound Cake.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.