Accolades aren’t what motivates Chicago-based chef Brian Jupiter. But the executive chef of two of the Windy City’s hottest restaurants does have plenty of proof to attest to his culinary prowess, including being named 2022 champion of the Food Network TV show “Chopped,” three Michelin Bib Gourmand and two James Beard Awards Best Chef Midwest nominations.
What keeps the New Orleans-born chef inspired is the simple belief that sharing knowledge and providing access is essential for Black culinary talent to flourish. “I’m a firm believer in opportunity. And opportunity is what separates us from a lot of other people,” observes Jupiter, who’s popularly referred to by his kitchen teams as “Chef Jup.”
“When you have a talent, a gift, and you’re able to share that gift with others in a mentoring or teaching capacity, I think that’s very rewarding.”
An Early Start In The Kitchen
Jupiter’s love of cooking was cultivated by times spent in his grandmother’s kitchen seeing, smelling and eating food. “My grandmother actually encouraged me to pursue culinary as a career,” he shares. “When I was around 12 or 13 years old, my grandmother took me to a cooking class in New Orleans. It was one of those touristy spots—where you learn to make gumbo and bread pudding—but it was my first interaction with a real chef, and so that really stuck with me.”
It wasn’t long after Jupiter found himself working in a professional kitchen, at the age of 15, as a fry cook at New Orleans’ iconic Aurora Steakhouse. And it was there he learned to navigate the kitchen scene with the help of a Black cook named Brandon. “Brandon took me under his wing. He worked the grill station, and he was someone I looked up,” he recalls fondly. “Brandon wasn’t trying to be a ‘chef.’ He was a cook, a really good cook. He taught me that it is a tough industry, but if you focus, you can be successful.”
Each One Teach One
Today, in his dual role as executive chef in Chicago at Frontier (a whole animal and game smokehouse) and at Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods (a restaurant named after his grandmother and one which specializes in southern comfort food), Jupiter pays the kindness shown to him forward by serving as a role model for young, Black talent interested in the culinary arts.
“When you look at young Black men, in particular, we have a lot us that don’t really know what we want to do…And so, I tell my cooks all the time, cooking can take you anywhere in the world. It’s something where if you work hard towards it, then you really can set your own path,” he offers. “Cooking [as a career] also creates discipline…I feel it’s one of those life talents that’s not taught to everyone; to have a sense of pride, to be on time, to be able to work with other people.”
By Jocelyn Amador
Cuisine Noir Magazine is the country’s first Black food publication, launched in 2009 and dedicated to connecting the African diaspora through food, drink and travel. To read the rest of this article and more, visit www.cuisinenoirmag.com.