Catching up with Amanda-Lee; JUSU Bar's Executive Chef
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Amanda-Lee Chesley, Jusu Bar’s Executive Chef, for several years now and if I was to describe her personality I would say she is ‘the salt-of-the-earth’. She has been cooking professionally for almost 13 years and oozes passion for her profession. I recently sat down with her and asked her about her experience with Jusu and how she got to the menu you currently enjoy.
KE: Can you give me a general overview of what it is that you do for Jusu Bar right now?
AL: I develop the menu, which includes improving existing products and creating new ones.. We are continually evolving and part of that is matching the menu to mirror that evolution. I also help train the production team and act as a resource & advisor to them.
KE: When Jusu Bar first opened our menu was exclusively cold-pressed juice and smoothies. Were there learnings along the way and what is your goal when you create the Jusu Bar menu?
AL: There was a big learning curve at the beginning, especially from a health and safety perspective, understanding how vigilant we need to be with a such a nutritious yet risky product. To keep our juices at peak flavour & nutritional value we focus on temperature control and a short shelf life. We now pride ourselves in having the safest products possible, ensuring high nutritional value and flavour. As far as the menu goes its always my goal to have the healthiest products with the highest quality ingredients, inspired by my culinary background. We aim for balance and unique flavour combinations.
KE: Two years in, you were tasked with creating a line of food based on using our organic pulp. Had you ever worked with pulp before and can you share your process on how you come up with your delicious recipes?
AL: Before Jusu Bar I had worked minimally with pulp, mainly in desserts. I have a systematic yet creative way of approaching menu development. I always think about the menu as a whole. The menu is a structure that needs to be filled with items to make it robust and offer something for everyone. So, we work with category place holders based in flavour profile and product type, that can house a variety of rotating products. I first decide if there’s a void that needs to be filled and then create a top-quality item to fill it keeping the menu goals in mind and ensuring a good experience for our customer. For example, we have green juices from sweet to savoury/alkaline and simple to complex to meet everyone’s taste and nutritional needs.
KE: What have been some of your challenges?
AL: One of the biggest challenges is offering a product that is high in nutrition, 100% organic, made fresh EVERY DAY and unique, all while keeping it affordable for our customers. We also want to have a product offering that will satisfy as many people as possible without having a massive menu. We’ve adapted to our customer’s feedback and shifted our menu accordingly. We are the first fully organic grab and go company that most people encounter so education has been a fun challenge. It doesn’t take long for people to notice how great they feel drinking our juice and eating our food, and its a privilege to support and experience this shift with our customers.
KE: Have there been any surprises along the way with how people respond to certain products?
AL: When you’re trying to appeal to a wide range of people its a great reminder that everyone has their own palate, desires and experiences. Now were spread across several regions and we have different best sellers in each region. I’m often pleasantly surprised by which products become our best sellers! And honestly, sometimes products that we think will be a hit end up selling more slowly than expected, it’s all part of the learning experience.
KE: Any hints to what’s coming to the Jusu Bar menu soon?
AL: We've brought back a fan favorite, the Pink Panther blend for the summer and we’re doing a lot of tweaking of the existing menu. We’re always looking at trends in the industry in order to stay current with our customer base. We hope our customers come in excited to see new things as they arrive on the menu.
KE: If you could cook any meal what is your favourite thing to cook?
Fresh seasonal produce. I especially love anything tiny ...mini summer squash, radishes, baby fennel, thumbelina carrots, I could go on....there's pretty much always sauce on the bottom and a fresh herb salad with shallots on top. Did I mention perfectly executed fried polenta..and capers...?
KE: What would be your “last request” dish?
AL: First, I’d like to eat it somewhere beautiful with my loved ones. Next, I would want the dish to eat harmoniously and be composed and cooked with heart and intention, every ingredient treated with care.
Thank-you so much Amanda-Lee for sharing yourself with us and sharing your recipes with the world.
Questions, comments, concerns, queries, conundrums? Don’t hesitate to ask email@example.com
Yours in health & vitality,