San Antonio is undergoing a transformation, specifically in the core of the city. Millennials want to be here and businesses are signing leases left and right. We want to hear what many influential people in the city think about the transformation of our iconic city – entertainment, retail, living and culinary wise. We sat down with Chef John Russ, Executive Chef at Lüke, to take a peek inside his mind and see what he thinks about the San Antonio food scene!
Twenty Something SA: Tell us about a day in the life as an executive chef at Luke?
Chef John Russ: My day starts around 6 a.m. and I go for a run to clear my mind, come back and have coffee while going through the emails. In the kitchen, I’m in around 9 a.m. and I finish emails, paperwork and interviews. Once a chef is in the kitchen, you’re constantly training your staff. The line staff takes care of the guests and my job is to take care of my employees; to train them and retrain them and excite them. I want to take them on my journey.
20SA: What’s your favorite dish to prepare? What’s your favorite dish to eat?
CJR: I love to make braised lamb shanks. They’re fun, exciting and you have to look for specific things to make the dish. It’s a blast to eat. Most people are shady of it because it has a huge bone and a huge piece of meat, but it’s a wonderful thing.
I love to eat boiled crawfish. It gives me a moment where I can be back with my family in New Orleans. If I close my eyes, I’m with my family. The smells and the sound are all there, I just have to close my eyes.
20SA: You’ve lived in many different places (Alabama, New Hampshire, New York, Maryland, New Orleans) – what do you love about San Antonio?
CJR: There’s a real, honest community.
20SA: Where do you see San Antonio’s culinary future going?
CJR: We get a very unique view of San Antonio. Our farming culture here is better than any place I’ve ever been. That goes for the meat and greens. This allows us to move past the fads and what the nation gets caught up in over and over and over again. We have a lot of honest food and bring food that’s real, tangible and exciting for people. It’s so difficult to cook at home, it’s so hot here, so a lot of people want to go out to eat and taste things that are real and honest.
20SA: What do you think downtown San Antonio needs?
CJR: Downtown San Antonio is going to continue to focus on bringing in service industries, but what they really need is a bus service that runs later than midnight. There’s no reliable transportation. I find myself driving people home from work because there’s no bus that runs when the restaurant closes.
20SA: Where’s your favorite place to dine at in San Antonio (besides Luke)?
CJR: Dignowity Meats, Kohinoor and Niki’s Tokyo Inn. Niki’s has the best sushi in San Antonio. The rolls are more traditional sushi, it’s a traditional Japanese restaurant with gorgeous, flavorful, challenging and exciting sushi.
20SA: Final thoughts?
CJR: I know where we’re [San Antonio] going as a food community, and I want to be a part of that instead of being on the sideline. We’re in a great period of change and being a piece of that is truly important. Where we are as a city is a blossoming flower. It’s such a beautiful place. The honesty and the friendliness is something I’ve never seen before. We [as a community] just have to continue with our growth and the city will be continue to be a beautiful place.
Join Chef John Russ for the next Visiting Chef Series on November 20th. Lüke will be transformed into a New Orleans getaway complete with a featured pastry chef, cocktail stations, oysters, live music and more!