Ep. 3 Junzi Kitchen restaurant in New Haven, CT gets creative with Night Lunch and uplifting their line cooks! Northern Chinese flavors, a 10 person creative team and irresistible treats after dark.
Digging Deeper: Junzi Kitchen
New Chinese Flavors & Creative Cook Training
by Tagan Engel
The team at Junzi Kitchen does Chinese food and cook training just a little bit different, and it’s a bright spot for both food and jobs in New Haven,CT. Junzi Kitchen opened on Broadway near Yale University in 2015, with a menu of Northern Chinese flavors, bing wraps and noodle bowls served in a “chipotle style” assembly line where you choose all your proteins, vegetables and sauces as you desire. The braised pork, seasoned tofu, and king oyster mushrooms are particularly popular, and pair perfectly with the vinegar kick of the quick pickled carrots, daikon radish and cucumbers, not to mention the numerous sauces, and finishing touches like cilantro, chive ash, and shrimp salt. The Chinese food common in most of the 40,000+ chinese restaurants in the USA feature strong flavors from southern China, the lighter flavors of Northern China featured at Junzi are a first for New Haven, and pretty new to the United States as a whole.
The crew of eight co-managers and chefs, many of whom are Yale graduates are on a constant creative high evolving their flagship store and working on opening the second location in New York City. Their team is funded more like a tech start-up than an independent restaurant, but they’re not looking to build a rubberstamp chain model like other restaurants.
The genius of Junzi goes beyond the sleek custom designed space and the intriguing fast/fresh menu with local ingredients, it’s in what happens after dark. Night lunch is an innovative event Friday and Saturdays from 10:30-1:30pm with booming music, a constantly changing menu designed not just by the head chef, but by the line cooks, many of whom had little to no culinary experience before working here. “I get bored cooking the same thing every day, so why wouldn’t they” said Lucas Sin, one of two lead chefs at Junzi Kitchen. Lucas works with line cooks to draw on their tastes and culinary cultures to create Night Lunch menus. It’s a rare opportunity for entry level line cooks to learn menu development, sourcing, pricing, prep planning, and meal execution to the public; skills most cooks don’t learn until many years in the business. Beyond the creative exercise and skill training, the opportunity to step up and be mentored and respected as a line cook is a pretty exceptional occurrence. Lucky for us, New Haven is their home base, and the shop is a thriving hot spot downtown.
Be sure to try the bing wraps and knife cut noodle bowls, and king oyster mushrooms; and if you are there for Night Lunch and they happen to have the General Chu’s Chicken and the Bruleé Sweet Potato with Ashley’s Ice Cream, do not leave without a taste!
Listen to the full interview on The Table Underground with Tagan Engel, where you’ll hear more from the young and innovative Junzi Kitchen Chef Lucas Sin and Marketing Director Reed Immer.