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How I Got My Job: Leading an Award-Winning Seattle Restaurant Group

Edouardo Jordan’s career path from Bennigan’s server to chef-owner of a Seattle restaurant group

In How I Got My Job, folks from across the food and restaurant industry answer Eater’s questions about, well, how they got their job. Today’s installment: Edouardo Jordan.

Edouardo Jordan has been on a hot streak since the 2015 opening of his first restaurant, Salare. Things really heated up for the Seattle-based chef a couple years back when his Southern-food restaurant JuneBaby was named Eater’s Best New Restaurant of 2017 — swiftly followed by a three-star review from New York Times critic Pete Wells and a spot on Food & Wine’s list of the best restaurants of 2018. Jordan was a double winner at last year’s James Beard Awards, earning both the Best New Restaurant and Best Chef: Northwest awards.

But Jordan didn’t set out to become a chef until about a year after his graduation from the University of Florida, when he changed tracks from sports management and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu. Here now, Jordan shares how he got his job.

Eater: What does your job involve?

Edouardo Jordan: Training, menu planning, coach, fixer of all things, bookkeeping, punisher, awarder, daddy, mom, father, son, and sometimes the holy spirit.

What did you want to do when you started your career?

I graduated from the University of Florida with dual degrees: sports management and business administration. I was initially in the sports world. After less than a year, I started my path in the food world.

Did you go to culinary school or college? If so, would you recommend it?

Culinary is needed if you cannot find a mentor or place that can help you get the foundation of cooking and prepping down. I don’t recommend it and would not recommend it if my son wanted to become a chef.

What would you have done differently at school or paid more attention to?

I was a rockstar in school. I would not change a thing… maybe no culinary school, but who knows where I would be without it.

Student loans are such a part of the conversation around higher education right now. Has your career trajectory been impacted by debt in any way?

Still paying... so, yes.

What was your first job? What did it involve?

My first culinary job was a server at Bennigan’s restaurant, then a chocolatier assistant with Ewald Notter, then the fry guy at a Mexican restaurant as my first kitchen job.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were starting out in the industry?

Catching up to speed and learning ingredients that I have never tasted or seen before. I come from a humble background, so much of the food that I was cooking was foreign to me.

When was the first time you felt successful?

Yesterday. LOL.

In the foreground is a plate of fried fish on a white plate. A hand hovers over the plate, sprinkling it with what appears to be salt.
Edouardo Jordan prepares Junebaby’s popular catfish and grits.
Suzi Pratt

Did you have any setbacks? What were they?

Every day there [are setbacks] sometimes. Too many to name, but luckily there are a number of blessings that counter those setbacks.

What was the turning point that led to where you are now?

Learning and growing, running my first restaurant [as chef de cuisine] at Bar Sajor, and finally obtaining the money to open my first place, Salare restaurant.

What were the most important skills that got you there?

Confidence, reassurance, determination, and drive.

Do you have, or did you ever have, a mentor in your field? How has that made a difference?

Not necessarily, but I loved emulating the leadership that I experienced working under chef Jonathan Benno. He is a tough chef, demands the best, pushes the team, but at the same time respects everyone. He knows how to lighten the kitchen with jokes when needed but is probably the chef you would want to to lead you through a battle.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Working with [so] many young culinarians in the front and back of the house and guiding them to the next level.

How are you making change in your industry?

Inspiring and motivating so many new folks into the industry. I’m thinking about minimizing waste, cultivating positive workplaces, and creating career-oriented jobs in my own operations.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Find your voice!

What advice would you give someone who wants your job?

Get in line!

Amy McKeever is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC.
Photo of Edouardo Jordan by Shannon Renfroe.
Illustrations from the Noun Project: camera by Dhika Hernandita; covered dish by Made by Made; wine by Made by Made; lightbulb by Maxim Kulikov; hand writing by Pongsakorn.