For Justin Burdett, it all started on a stepstool, with (a then tiny) Burdett peering over his grandmother’s stove and dropping biscuit scraps into a vat of warm chicken broth. Not even Nanny, would’ve guessed this would send Burdett down a path of cooking and hospitality. But a (friendly) shot in the arm from his family, and a strong showing of talent, led Burdett to reach high school with an already strong arsenal of skills—and a hunger to keep cooking.
Taking that old school route with ease—and elbow grease—a 14-year-old Burdett worked his way from dishwasher to the line, fryer, grill, and (yes) the pit itself at Glen’s BBQ in Snellville, Georgia. Already showing a flare for Southern flavors, Burdett’s next stop was a mom and pop restaurant, serving straightforward, scratch comfort food, and sparking a lasting interest in honest regional cooking. From there, and a few more jobs, Burdett’s next pivotal stop was the grill station, a position he earned at 5 & 10 under local culinary hero Hugh Acheson.
Well-versed in Georgia, Burdett’s next move took him to Asheville, North Carolina, and five years working his way up at places like The Market Place and Table Restaurant. He expanded a growing interest in fine cuisine tasting menus at Richmond Hill Inn, an executive chef position at Nova, and a three year-stint as chef de cuisine at Miller Union back in Atlanta. The great hopscotch between North Carolina and Georgia finally ended when Burdett and his wife took over Ruka’s Table in Highlands, North Carolina, where he explores local flavors and ingredients (with immediate critical acclaim). Among many accolades, the Southern Foodways Alliance member took first place on “Chopped” in 2010, and was nominated for “People’s Best Chef, Southeast” by Food & Wine in 2013.