My name is Justin Box. I was born in Dallas, Texas.

My love for cooking started on an old black leather and dark wooden stool in my mama’s kitchen when I was young. I remember sitting on that old stool, watching my grandma take spoonfuls of pork fat out of an old coffee tin and teaching me how to make gravy with it. I also remember my mama letting me brown the ground beef for spaghetti at least once a week, and to this day, it is still my all-time favorite dish. My 8-year-old son uses that same old stool today.

On January 13th, 2015, my first son was born. I was then five years sober. It was also the day we got green-tagged to open a restaurant called Cafe Momentum. Cafe Momentum was a nonprofit that taught juvenile offenders how to run a successful restaurant.

We taught these young men everything from catering to cooking on a line, serving, dishwashing, and everything in between. So, not only was I teaching these misguided youths and helping counsel them on a day-to-day basis, but I was also a first-time father, which I knew nothing about. After a reasonable amount of time, I decided I wanted to be a real-time daddy and give my son more time. This meant leaving behind some of the best people I’ve known in my career and pivoting in the direction of private dining, nonprofit partnership, and consulting/opening up numerous restaurants in and around the city. I also took on the role of one of the only people in my city to cook for many nationally known punk rock and hip-hop groups from all over. Being a father and doing service work are two of the most important things in my life, and I have finally curated a path that’s fully inclusive of both within my industry. I am in the fetal stages of starting my nonprofit to employ men and women in recovery. And, of course, my family will be a massive part of this journey.

For all the future cooks, don’t settle and know your worth. If you’re good at something, go out and get that shit. You are and will always be your biggest cheerleader.