Ever been curious about the mastermind behind your Over Easy favorites? It’s about time we introduced you to the member of our family who has been putting happiness on your plates since 2012.
Meet Justin Castor, Executive Chef, Over Easy University Village in Colorado Springs and our resident breakfast guru.
Justin started with Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group about five years ago when the first Over Easy opened in downtown Colorado Springs. As fate would have it, he moved to the city just before that first location began business. He applied as a dishwasher, but after seeing his food service passion, was promoted to line cook. Justin quickly mastered all positions on the line and in the prep kitchen. He showed interest in learning more so was introduced to kitchen management which included ordering, inventorying, scheduling, cost control and menu development. Justin was promoted to assistant chef and then to head chef at the Over Easy University Village location—all within just five years! His hard work and passion for crafting irresistible, quality dishes quickly escalated his culinary journey, earning him his title as well as multiple awards such as Best Overall Chef from the Colorado Restaurant Association in 2016.
Justin has never been one to settle and is now ambitiously pursuing his next goal: graduating from Auguste Escoffier Culinary School. He is studying the artistic and esteemed French-style cuisine under chefs from all across the United States. As one of the chief menu developers for Over Easy and Urban Egg, you have surely noticed ways he has already applied his education, including his dedication to using high quality, fresh ingredients as well as his passion to add flare in flavor, color, and presentation. Unsurprisingly, he has already stood out as a top student and with grades above 98%, and has earned himself an invitation to further his education through a week-long program in France this fall.
But besides Justin’s talent and unmatched passion for what he does, what really stands out about him is his heart, and that’s something we can’t capture in our own words. For real insight into the man in the chef’s jacket, you may want to read the answers he gave to a few of our questions.
Us: As a chef with a pretty significant leadership role, what is your greatest desire for the people you work with?
Justin: Without a doubt, the most important thing to me is to bring out the passion in other people. I want every cook, whatever their role, to be empowered to be creative and to take the initiative to try new things so that their excitement for what they are doing can really come alive. My greatest passion in the world is cooking and I want other people to find their passion too.
Us: What do you prioritize as you create dishes and explore new cuisine?
Justin: First of all, I want our ingredients to be local as often as possible and always fresh, which means there is a large focus on what is seasonal. That can be one of the more challenging parts of the job, but it’s so important. I want people to know exactly what is in their food—no chemicals or preservatives that people don’t understand. Also, I do everything I can to avoid waste. When our owner Randy brought the chefs to Shamrock Foods in Arizona to learn and see firsthand all the hard work that goes into the produce industry, I left with an entirely new appreciation and passion to avoid unnecessary disposal. Beyond those things, I personally just love the opportunity that cooking gives me to be artistic. I also paint and like to be creative in other areas of my life, so getting to have that reflected in the dishes we serve is always exciting for me. By the way…that trip to Arizona was my first time on a plane in my life. People kind of laughed about that, but it’s just one more example of what an amazing experience this job has been for me.
Us: What is your favorite dish to prepare at Over Easy?
Justin: It’s so simple, but honestly it’s probably the Cinnamon Swirl Pancake. That was one of my first Over Easy creations and it’s become such a favorite amongst our customers so it always makes me happy to make it.
Us: What menu item are you most proud of creating?
Justin: That changes, but right now it’s probably the Pulled Pork Benedict. The colors and the flavor profile really make it one of my all-time favorite dishes.
Us: How does it feel to be so accomplished in your career at just 29 years old?
Justin: I am honestly amazed at the opportunities I’ve had and the recognition I’ve received. To have been awarded the second best Executive Chef in the Springs right behind Brother Luck blew my mind—to come in second to one of the most notable chefs in the state is crazy. I mean, he beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network and I still feel like I’m just a humble Texas guy! I feel so lucky to have walked into that first Over Easy five years ago and I am thankful every day that Scott and Randy and so many others have believed in me and helped me get here. I’m not done, though. Every time I reach one goal, I set a new one. Now I am really looking forward to finishing culinary school.
Us: If there was one thing you could say to every person or family who sat down at Over Easy, what would it be?
Justin: Honestly, I would just hug them and thank them for being there. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am and I wouldn’t get to be pursuing my dreams like this. Our customers are the ones we do this for. The stories of people who come in to celebrate special events, the people who treat themselves when they are going through hard times, and the ones who keep coming back time and time again are the folks who make everything worth it. I really just want to make people happy and I don’t know what else I could think of to say except, “thank you.”
Next time you eat at Over Easy in University Village, you’ll know a little bit more about what is happening behind the scenes and who creates that award-winning menu. You can enjoy your favorite dishes knowing that the chef is happy to serve you and is grateful you’re there. Within Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group we like to say that our staff are family and our customers are friends. We’re glad to give you a glimpse into what that really means to us. Thank you for being a part of the story!Posted by