Julian Rodarte was born to cook. His father Beto, who emigrated from Durango, Mexico, has cooked everywhere from California to the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay — meaning Julian learned how to be resilient at a young age from the best. He grew up in the kitchen and not much has changed. These days, the father and son duo run the aptly named Beto & Son in Dallas’s Trinity Groves neighborhood, where they crank out next generation Mexican cuisine. The Essentia ambassador chatted with us about his humble beginnings, his bright future, and how he handles the heat of the kitchen.
Did you always want to be a chef?
Yeah. I’ll start from the beginning — with my dad. He grew up in a little farmland town with no running water or electricity. He got inspired by his grandmother, who used to cook a family meal every day after he would come in from working on the farm. When he was 12, him and his family came to the United States, to Del Rio, which is a little border town in Texas, and he immediately got a job working in a restaurant. Starting as a dishwasher, he said he knew if he was working in restaurants there would always be food available. Similarly, my mom, who is from New York, worked in restaurants to pay her way through college.
That’s what I was born into. We were literally a service industry family. Kitchens to me were more than just a place where you would go and eat. It was really a time I could spend with my family.
Do you remember the first time you cooked a meal with your father?
His favorite time of the day was to come home and cook dinner after he had been cooking at the restaurant all day. Every night, I was glued to his hip, whether he was making some Italian dish, like chicken parmesan or chicken piccata, or one of his Mexican dishes, like chicken guajillo.
He taught me how to grill chicken. He taught me how to make pasta. Simple things that any 10- or 12-year-old could figure out, however I would open a can of tomato sauce and throw a little bit of seasoning in there so I could pretend like I was making it. I wanted to feel like it was more than just a can of tomato sauce.
How did you rise through the ranks from dishwasher to decorated chef?
At 14, I started dishwashing at my dad’s restaurant. About a year after that, my dad lost that restaurant, so I moved to another Mexican restaurant, where I was serving, bartending and cooking on the line – even closing for the manager some nights. I really learned the industry.
By the time I turned 20, I realized either I take this seriously and go to culinary school, or I find something else to do quick. I enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and after I graduated, I worked for a steakhouse in an upscale hotel where I caught the eye of Dean Fearing, who has been called the father of Southwestern cuisine. I had always wanted to work there because that was one of the first fancy steakhouse dinners my dad took me to in Dallas when I was growing up.
After that, I got the opportunity to go into the corporate world, which is also what my dad did for a long time. A super popular chain was looking for a young chef who was going to bring some new ideas, so I decided to jump on board. In that role, I became a food scientist and traveled around the United States. We developed foods and sauces for almost every chain restaurant, and that taught me the business behind food. Then I got the opportunity to open Beto & Son. The rest is history.
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Excited to partner with @essentiawater. I’ve been hooked since the first drop of Essentia and committed to giving my body the best quality water- the same way I look at bringing the best ingredients into my culinary creations. Someone is going to break out with a new creation…Debe ser tu! #ItMightAsWellBeYou #OverachievingH2O
Working with Essentia Water is one of your first major brand partnerships — what does it mean to you?
This partnership with Essentia is really big for me. It’s my first big brand deal, and it is so humbling. When I see myself alongside overachievers like fashion designer Danielle Guizio, NFL MVP Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II and hip-hop violinist Ezinma (a.k.a. ‘Classical Bae’), I am honored to be considered amongst their caliber in my field. It is extremely motivating. Not to mention, Essentia is a brand I use every day. People used to always joke with me that they should give me a deal because it was the only water they would see me drink. Simply put, it was destined to be!
What do you want to do next, and what drives you to keep pushing to realms of new success and achievements?
A partner and I are looking to open a new restaurant, hopefully early next year. I’m also hoping to write a cookbook.
I was blessed with the amazing opportunity of creating, owning, and operating my own restaurant at 23. That opportunity changed my life and I would love to be able to give someone else that opportunity to do the same, to mentor and coach someone through the struggles and successes we go through. That’s what keeps the fire burning!
What advice would you give to ambitious young chefs?
You have to be resilient and confident in what you do and what you know. You have to take risks and go for it. I’ve always looked at it this way: I’m not afraid of messing up, I’m afraid of missing out on the opportunity that could have made me who I am. Take every opportunity and go at it like it’s what’s going to make you who you are.
And of course, we have to ask, what’s your signature home-cooked dish?
A brown-butter seared Chilean sea bass, cut with a mint shiso dressing. I take the brown butter in which I seared the sea bass and top it with some spaghetti squash, and then finish that with sautéed spinach and an avocado chimichurri.