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Getting to know Chef Justin

June 15, 2010

Chef Justin Timineri recently taught a cooking and nutrition education class for a group of 4th and 5th grade students at Heights Elementary in Fort Myers, Florida. They made fun and healthy recipes from the “Xtreme Cuisine Cooking School” cookbook. Chef Justin taught the students about his job as a chef with a PowerPoint slideshow featuring some of his recipes and cooking events. Here are some questions from the students from Heights Elementary after the slideshow and answers from Chef Justin.



Q. Where were you born?
A. In New York.

Q. What nationality are you?
A. I am Italian. You can tell by my last name “Timineri.” That is why I like Italian food.

Q. At what age did you start cooking?
A. When I was just about your age, 10 or 11.

Q. Did you help your mom cook?
A. Yes, that it is the best way to start cooking as a child. Cook with your mom or another adult that cooks well. Read cookbooks and pick out recipes that you both can prepare. I also helped my mom wash dishes and clean up.

Q. What was your favorite recipe to make when you were a kid?
A. The first recipe I made was a grilled cheese sandwich. Of course, now I know you should use whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese.

Q. What was the second recipe that you made when you were a kid?
A. Spaghetti. Tomato sauce is very healthy and there are many good varieties of whole-wheat spaghetti which are very healthy also.

Q. What is your favorite family recipe?
A. Baked ziti.

Q. Why did you decide to become a chef?
A. Everyone in my family was a good cook. And I always loved to be in the kitchen.

Q. Did you ever want to be anything else?
A. No, I always wanted to be a chef.

Q. How many years have you been cooking professionally?
A. I have been cooking for 17 years. I started when I was 18 years old.

Q. At what age did you become a chef?
A. At the age of 28. So I had to work hard and learn from other chefs for 10 years.

Q. Did you go to college to learn how to cook?
A. I took many classes when I studied to become an Executive Chef through the Florida Culinary Institute.

Q. What kinds of subjects did you study at the Florida Culinary Institute?
A. I took classes on nutrition, sanitation, recipe testing, management and many other important subjects.

Q. Was it hard to become a chef?
A. Yes, it is very hard work, but it is very rewarding.

Q. Is your job fun, or is it just hard work?
A. It can be a lot of fun. But you don’t have time to sit down very much!

Q. Why do you cook for children and adults?
A. Because it is important to teach all people how fun and creative it is to make healthy food.

Q. Do you like to cook for people when you are not working?
A. Yes, I love to cook for family and friends.

Q. When did you realize you were a good cook?
A. When people asked for seconds!

Q. Where do you live now?
A. Tallahassee, Florida. That is the state’s capitol and that is where the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Governor’s Office are located.

Q. Do you have a website?
A. Absolutely. Go to your computer and type in this address on your internet search engine –


Q. Is it easy to make recipes?
A. No. There are a lot of different things to consider, such as the cooking time and temperature. It takes a lot of practice to get use each ingredient in the best way.

Q. What is your favorite fruit and vegetable dish?
A. Fruit and vegetable sushi. I like sushi very much. You can learn more about how we made it on our blog –

Q. What ingredients do you use in the Fruit Sushi recipe?
A. Soy wraps, sushi rice, fruits and vegetables, soy sauce.

Q. I would like to make seafood recipes. Do you have any seafood recipes?
A. Yes, we have quite a few. You can find many at our website –

Q. What about seafood soup?
A. Yes, we have several.

Q. What do you put in the smoothies? They are very good.
A. We are glad that you like them. I use blueberries, strawberries, vanilla yogurt, ice, milk bananas and chocolate as a topping.

Q. Can you tell me your favorite kid’s recipe now?
A. We have a lot of good kid’s recipes. Your “Xtreme Cuisine Cookbook” has many good recipes. “Fresh from Florida kids” has very good recipes too . It is hard to choose.

Q. How many dishes have you made?
A. Thousands.

Q. Why does your food taste so good?
A. I use fresh local ingredients whenever possible. I also practice a lot to get the recipes perfect.

Q. What is the hardest and easiest dish you have ever made?
A. The hardest was custards, they can be tricky. The easiest was cold cereal. I bet you can make that one.

Q. What is the best dish you have ever made?
A. In my opinion, I made a lobster bisque that I thought was excellent. Other people thought so, too.

Food and Nutrition

Q. Do you have a garden?
A. Yes, mostly herbs and vegetables. We are lucky to live in Florida to be able to grow many plants.

Q. Why do herbs look like weeds?
A. Some people say weeds are only plants that are in the wrong place. That means all plants are useful. Herb plants are very useful. You can learn how to use them in cooking in your Xtreme Cuisine Cookbook.

Q. Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?.
A. Technically they are a fruit. But they are categorized as a vegetable.

Q. Which foods are good if you are sick?
A. Citrus and most other fruits have vitamin C. Blueberries and other berries are good for infections.

Q. Can you make us some ice cream?
A. Maybe if I come back. But only as dessert after you eat healthy snack recipes.

Q. Is cheese healthy? What about milk?
A. Both cheese and milk are excellent sources of calcium. Calcium is good for your bones, skin and teeth. You should always drink milk rather than soda.

Q. How about chips? Are they healthy?
A. Not really. You can eat a few with a healthy guacamole dip. But make sure you eat mostly fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains and lean protein.

On the Job: Promotions, Travel and Events.

Q. What was the hardest competition you ever faced against other chefs?
A. In New Orleans for the Food Network Seafood Challenge.

Q. Have you ever cooked on TV?
A. Yes, on the Food Network. Because I won the Seafood Challenge in 2006!

Q. What seafood dish did you make on the Food Network?
A. Crispy Pan-seared Snapper. It was very good.

Q. Have you met a chef on “Kitchen Nightmares?”
A. No, I don’t want my kitchen to be a nightmare.

Q. Have you been on “Chopped?”
A. No, I chop lots of things on my own.

Q. Are you a Pro-chef?
A. Yes, it is a great organization and I am proud to be part of it.

Q. What is the biggest group you have ever taught?
A. 8000 kids at the Fun and Fit as a Family event in South Florida.

Q. What famous chefs have you met?
A. Paula Deen and many other famous chefs.

Q. Where is the fanciest place you have ever cooked?
A. I have cooked at the Governor’s Mansion for two governors, Governor Jeb Bush and Governor Charlie Christ.

Q. Have you ever met the President of the United States?
A. I have met George Bush Senior. I hope to meet others.

Q. Have you ever been to Paris?
A. Yes, it is a beautiful city.

Q. what cultures do you find interesting?
A. Korean, European and African.

Q. Have you ever been to Japan?
A. Yes. It is very different from America.

Q. Did you make sushi in Japan?
A. No, but I ate it.

Q. What is the weirdest food you ever ate while traveling?
A. Live octopus.

Q. Was it moving?
A. Yes.

Q. Have you been to Spanish speaking countries? My family speaks Spanish
A. I have been to Mexico and a few Caribbean countries, but not Spain. All of those countries have very interesting and delicious food.

Q. What is the favorite place you have ever been?
A. Egypt.

Q. What does it look like in Egypt?
A. It is very big. There is a desert with pyramids that are very old. I rode a camel while I was in the desert. Some parts of Cairo, the Capitol, and other big cities are very modern and beautiful.

Q. What was in the Pyramids?
A. Tombs of ancient Egyptians.

Q. Why did you ride a camel in Egypt?
A. Because a trip to Egypt is not complete without a camel ride. However, riding a camel is not very comfortable.

Q. Will you attend the FIFA World Cup?
A. No, but I will watch it on TV. Nutrition is very important, but so is exercise. Soccer is a great way to get exercise

Q. Are you going to come back to Heights Elementary?
A. I hope so. This is a great school with an excellent nutrition program and very good food in your cafeteria.

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