Chef Justin Smillie was born in Upland California, but raised in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, where he began his kitchen career at 17 at Bernards Inn under Chef Edward Stone. Two years on the line convinced Smillie to enroll at the Culinary Institute of America, where the eager young cook picked up the fine-dining skills he needed to make in New York City.
Smillie next landed at Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen under Chef Christopher Beischer, followed by posts at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern and Chef Jonathan Waxman’s Washington Park. Smillie next earned a chef position at Waxman’s Barbuto, and in the six years he spent under Waxman’s attentive eye, Smillie fell in love with bold flavors, rustic technique, open fire, and farm-to-table cooking.
In 2010, Chef Daniel Silverman invited Smillie to help open Andre Balaz’s The Standard. Smillie worked winters at The Standard and for two seasons spent summers as executive chef of Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. Fortune found him one afternoon when Smillie was introduced to Donna Lennard of Il Buco, who soon tapped Smillie as executive chef of Italian trattoria Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. At Il Buco, Smillie cooks the creative market-driven food he’s grown to love and master, embracing the bold flavors and traditions of Italian cuisine. In 2013, Smillie was named 2013 StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef.