Interview with Chicago Rising Star Chef Harold Jurado of Yusho

by Caroline Hatchett
May 2015

Kerry Jepsen: When did you get your start in the industry?
Harold Jurado:
I was 5; I grew up in my mom's bakery/quick service restaurant in Chicago. I slept on 50-pound bags of flour and used a sheeter to make traditional Filipino bread rolls. When I played basketball in the alley, I used a sheet pan sized cooling rack and a 5-gallon bucket labeled apricot glaze as my backboard and hoop. Not very typical findings for a city boy. I never saw myself cooking for a living, but since cuisine (Filipino in particular) garnered so much comfort and emotion in my family, it didn't take much for it to become a major part of my life. I didn't get serious about kitchens until I left the traditional collegiate life (Syracuse and Depaul University) for Kendall College. I knew I needed to take a leap of faith to jumpstart my career and I did, into the culinary field. It was very natural for me to be on my feet all day, playing with both science and art without even thinking of it in that manner. That’s what I've been doing ever since.

KJ: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
Space. We don't have the smallest kitchen, but the amount of broth we have to store to get through a weekend really eats up a large chunk of what we have. I love walking in on a Monday and seeing how much space we can potentially have; only to see it taken up by all of the prep on Friday.

KJ: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
HJ: Almost everybody that works at Yusho lives within 5 to 10 minutes of the restaurant. I personally live the second furthest. We also employ students from Kendall College, both back and front of the house. The most visible way we're invovled in the community is by hosting Ramen Battles, showcasing two local chefs and their restaurants. We put them head to head to create something most have never created. Although it's a competition, it’s a great way to increase the community feel amongst our peers. At the end of it, we all become friends, regardless of who won.

KJ: How are you working towards becoming a sustainable restaurant?
We aren't the usual Japanese restaurant that has fish as the underlying theme of its menu. We know we aren't next to any ocean, so we limit what we feature from the coasts. We work with a lot of local farmers, for both produce and proteins. Our sourcing ranges from the local jail, where the vegetables are grown and harvested by the inmates, to being able to shake our farmers hand when he or she delivers our meat.

KJ: What's your five year plan?
HJ: Right now, I'm concentrating on Yusho and the team we've put together. Within 5 years I hope to grow with Folkart Restaurant Management. I want to expand outside of the four walls that make up our restaurant. I've worked with Chef Matthias Merges at Trotter’s and I've seen how he has evolved with the industry. I know that we can positively affect any endeavor as long as we maintain a strong team.