Chef Justin on Sustainability in the Kitchen

We stopped into the K-J Wine Estate & Gardens to chat with Executive Chef Justin Wangler on the sustainability efforts being implemented in the kitchen. In this short video, he shows us an Energy Management System (EMS) for the kitchen’s range hoods, energy efficient stove tops, water saving dishwashers and discusses the importance of supporting local agriculture and young farmers.

Moreover, Chef Justin shared his kitchen philosophies, kitchen disasters, and what he’d eat if the world ended tomorrow. Justin’s effort in going green in his cooking and in the kitchen has been another important stride in K-J’s overall effort in sustainability. Get to know the smiling chef and stop by the K-J Wine Estate & Gardens to say hello.

What are your core values around Sustainability?
We always try to do what we can. We have a funny saying that we were green before it was…green. We have always had amazing gardens, used local products, and we have always done all of the composting things and recycling…It’s just something that seems natural at this point. As we learn more, we’re always trying to be more energy efficient and really value our resources. I think that’s present throughout the company but definitely so in the kitchen.

What is your favorite part about working at K-J?
Eating and drinking is my favorite part of my job. I’ve always enjoyed food, and I’ve always loved wine. Being able to come to work every day to prepare food and wine for people is very rewarding and instantly gratifying. It’s nice to get to serve food and see people enjoy all our hard work.

What is your philosophy in the kitchen?
Our main philosophy here is to start with amazing things that come from the garden and really try not to mess them up. We just try to take the best stuff we can get, and prepare it simply. Our key is balance; having the food balanced by the wine. When the food is out of balance, it can overpower the wine.

Your favorite thing to cook is…?
I really enjoy cooking squab (young domestic pigeon). I like to cook seafood a great deal as well. At home when I cook, I try to cook in one pan or on the grill because at home I have to do dishes, and I don’t like to do dishes! For the most part, I try to keep things simple.

What is your worst kitchen disaster?
We were at a winery that is out in the country and runs on propane. We were getting ready to cook a four course plated dinner for around 50 people. Luckily, we had marked the steaks off on the grill prior to arriving there. We had seared the scallops first thing on one side. When we were getting ready to plate up, one of my chefs Eric said, “Hey, there’s something wrong with the gas. The oven’s not working.” It’s funny that when we walked in, I was making fun of the fact that they had three microwaves in the kitchen. So, we had no gas, and we still had to cook dinner. We started using all the microwaves to heat the food, and after about five minutes two of the microwaves broke. So we ended up cooking dinner for 50 people out of one microwave. Luckily, the guests didn’t know. We always have a big joke about that night because one of the guests had asked for a recipe, and we said, “Well… first you have to microwave the scallops for two minutes…” That was probably our worst kitchen disaster.

If the world was ending tomorrow, what would be your last meal?
Maybe sushi, I would say. I would want to eat great quality Hamachi. If it was going to end today, I would just go into the kitchen and eat the sausage we just made.