Brandon Jew Talks About His Accidental Journey To Cooking - Exclusive

Brandon Jew is the Michelin-starred chef behind San Francisco's celebrated Mister Jiu's restaurant, a brand partner with the storied cognac brand Rémy Martin, and a luminary of the American culinary scene. But, he did not intend to become a cook initially — even though he grew up around food. During a recent exclusive Mashed interview, Jew said, "I was the assistant to my grandma, when we had family dinners, but I didn't do much cooking. It was mostly helping with carrying groceries and sorting little things for her, like vegetables, or measuring stuff out. Things were very rarely weighed out, so if they were weighed at all, they weren't scaled, it was this many pieces of this and that many pieces of that."

Jew started cooking more as a teenager, but it still wasn't with any aspirations to become a serious cook. "I started messing around in the kitchen when I was growing up because my parents were working and I was like, 'Well, I'm hungry, so I'm going to learn how to make something.' I started cooking at home in that sense."

When Jew left home for college, it was then that his cooking career began in earnest, but only because he wanted to make ends meet and earn some spending money. As it happened, he had a knack for the trade, and his studies played a role. "I didn't start professionally cooking until I was in college, and I was cooking basically as a part-time job, just not really thinking much of it in the beginning," Jew explained. "The more I started cooking, the more I really loved how a lot of things were. I think it was a way of being creative. I'm a collaborator, so I really like working as a team."

A part-time job and biology major led to professional cooking

The things Brandon Jew was learning in college classes — particularly in biology — would soon play a major role in his life. "I was a bio major, so I already had a love for plants and animals and was really interested in how they were basically like muscle structures. I [learned] what specific things about these plants make them unique. When you start to really see how those things intersect, at least for me, it made a lot of sense for me to continue cooking. I think later in my cooking career, I really started to understand my own identity within what I wanted to cook, and it helped me to have a way of expressing that."

The craft took hold of Jew, and soon he was committed to it as a long-term profession. "I graduated from college, and I moved to Italy because I wanted to cook and I looked at a lot of the culinary schools and talked to my coworkers and they're like, 'Oh, you don't need to go to culinary school, you've already been cooking ... You should just go start in Europe,'" and that's what he did, spending a year in Italy and apprenticing at a couple restaurants. "I cooked all day, cooked all night and that was a real introduction into Michelin star kitchens, and for me just being immersed the Italian culture and really seeing how prideful regionality of food is that to them ... I knew at that point I [wanted] to dive deeper into the culinary arts."

Follow Brandon Jew on Instagram and learn more about his brand partnership with Rémy Martin here.