Ask the Chef

Meet Celebrity Chef Justin Warner, Cohost of SoBeWFF New Style Remix Dinner, at Kuro

The South Beach Food Wine & Food Festival is almost upon us, and for all you Broward County residents looking to get in on the action, look no further than your own backyard. This year, the festival has expanded its coverage with a number of Broward-based events taking place across Fort Lauderdale, an all-star lineup that includes several specialty events that make up the new Taste of Fort Lauderdale Series.

That includes celebrity chef Justin Warner, winner of the eighth season of Food Network Star and host of's Foodie Call. His first Food Network appearance was on 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, which he also won.

Before he became one of America's quirkiest chefs, Warner was a waiter at Danny Meyer's acclaimed restaurant the Modern. Today, he's not only a restaurateur in his own right but also an author of the cookbook The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them, a book that celebrates American fusion cuisine. 

This year, Warner has been invited to host the New Style Remix Dinner — one of the festival's Taste of Fort Lauderdale series events — alongside Kuro executive chef Alex Becker and DJ Felix Da Housecat. The exclusive dinner and afterparty will take place at Kuro, where guests will be taken on a multisensory journey pairing a fusion-style music soundtrack with a multicourse dinner that will lead diners through Kuro's kaiseki-style menu, starting with chilled dishes and traveling through tempura, robata, fish, and meat and concluding with sushi and dessert.

Courses will be complemented with Kuro's taste-driven cocktails and a variety of high-end sakes. Guests who purchase dinner tickets will automatically receive access to the afterparty event, which will move diners from the main dining room to Kuro's bar and lounge and poolside patio for small bites, dessert, and complimentary signature Kuro cocktails as DJ Felix Da Housecat spins into the evening.

New Times recently caught up with Warner to see what the Food Network Star winner and chef had to say about his South Beach Wine & Food Festival debut. 

New Times: Will this be your first time at SoBeWFF?
Justin Warner: I've been to Miami for the event several times before, but this is the first time I'll be participating. I'm good friends with the event's founder, Lee Schrager. He asked me what I was up to this year and if I'd like to cook. It was an easy "yes." This is my first time headlining an event like this, and it's a great honor. I'm really looking forward to getting to work with all of Florida's incredible fruit and seafood and working alongside Alex [Becker]. He's one chef that I definitely have a lot of respect for and feel like I have a lot in common with. I feel like we were separated from the culinary womb. We both have a strong Japanese background, and it's going to be fun working with a like-minded chef.

Why do you think they chose you to cook alongside Kuro executive chef Alex Becker?
I'm pretty sure they asked me because they know I'm the type of person that could deal with the new-style, fusiony sort of thing they're doing at Kuro. As a chef, my specialty has always been working with Japanese cuisine, and it's really where I discovered my voice as a chef. The flavors are so intense, so varied. It just tickles my tongue a little bit more, you know? When I opened [my New York City-based restaurant] Do or Dine in 2011, we had a lot of Japanese fusion on the menu, to the point where we were being featured for our unique twists on certain dishes, like deviled eggs with baby octopus and salted plum. To Americans, that type of combination sounds crazy, but to the Japanese that sounds like an amazing pairing of flavors.

What does "new-style" cooking mean to you?
I'm known for making "rebellious" cuisine, which is basically an easy-to-swallow way of saying I do whatever I want in the kitchen. When I'm cooking, there is no point of view. I make food that I want to eat, and in the process I'm breaking traditions. The American palate has become a melting pot of the nation and its varied cuisine, and I think more people are becoming more agreeable and open-minded to the type of food I'm making. I'm not afraid to put fish paste in tomato sauce for a pizza. It's all about thinking outside the accepted culinary boundaries.

Tell us one of your favorite recipes from your cookbook, The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them?
That's hard. They are all like my favorite children. But right now, there's a pretty simple recipe that I'm all about, the smoked-oyster caesar salad. Here in Colorado, it's winter, and we can definitely feel the seasonal doldrums. I think, when it's cold, it's easy for people to forget to eat fresh things. We're too busy making comfort foods. This smoked-oyster caesar salad mashes up a lot of flavors you wouldn't usually put together, and each ingredient doesn't have to be something coming out of a can. Sure, people usually think of anchovies with caesar salads. No one thinks about putting an oyster anywhere near a salad. But the smoky flavor makes it a winterized version of a classic dish, and with a fresh twist.

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival New Style Remix Dinner is part of the Taste of Fort Lauderdale Series event series and will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 27. Tickets cost $200 per person. Visit

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.