Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted traveled to Texas this week, which means that NatGeo viewers get to meet Chef Justin Yu. Yu is the owner and chef behind Houston’s Theodore Rex restaurant and Better Luck Tomorrow. He also served as Gordon Ramsay’s local expert in tonight’s episode.
Nerdophiles had the chance to talk to Yu about his experience filming Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, what he learned from working with Gordon, and the culinary landscape of Texas. Get to know him in our interview and watch him in action on NatGeo.
Nerdophiles: You’re originally from Houston, so what kind of influence has Texas had on your culinary career?
Justin Yu: Even with working in very avant-garde restaurants and traveling all over the world cooking, there’s a strong desire for a very homey, very wholesome-flavored food. The flavor of memory and comfort seasons our food consistently.
NP: How would you say the culinary landscape of Texas has changed from when you were growing up till now? Or are there some things that are still the same?
JY: There was a little apprehension to really offer food that was very personality-driven, mostly relying on time tried and true classics. Chefs now really take chances on themselves and their food — going outside of the box to really offer food from a culinary perspective that could be considered “out there.” One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is our desire for our food to be influenced by the strong amount of cultural diversity that surrounds us. I think it makes for a more fun dining experience in Texas.
NP: What attracted you about participating in this season of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted?
JY: Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Gordon Ramsay? He’s a culinary icon, a fantastic chef, and an excellent ambassador for our profession. Plus I kind of have a dry sense of humor that I thought would (positively) rub him the wrong way.
NP: Did working with Gordon and showing him around Texas give you any additional perspective on your work or the culinary scene?
JY: It really made me recognize that despite what the press says, Texas’s strong sense of diversity along with their strong roots and identity really makes it a place that is one of the most interesting to eat in in the world. From barbecue to Tex Mex, to all sorts of high and low experiences, Texas has it all.
NP: What’s the most fun that you had in the entire experience?
JY: The banter. I’m a bit of a shit talker. And I’m sure you know Gordon is as well.
NP: If viewers could order one dish off your restaurant’s menu, what would you recommend? Which one do you love most?
JY: Our most iconic dish at Theodore Rex is the Tomato Toast. I love it for many reasons, but maybe the thing I love most is that it’s a dish that means many different things to many different people in the fact that it is very reminiscent of a lot of different comfort foods.
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic.