After graduating in 2014, Justin started what would become a burgeoning culinary career that will certainly not culminate with being nominated for a prestigious James Beard award. In fine dining restaurants helmed by celebrated chefs Beau MacMillan and Kevin Binkley, he was inspired to innovate while learning the business aspects of restaurant management. Chef Binkley emphasized “everything on the plate should serve a purpose, and not just be there for aesthetics,” a lesson took to heart. Moving back to Upper Fruitland, he worked at chain restaurants in Farmington, a disheartening experience which didn’t stretch his talents. Offered an opportunity to take an excursion to Israel, Justin started hosting pop-up dinners to raise money for his trip. Upon his return, he and Tia decided to continue hosting pop-up dinners in the Four Corners area. Thus the Pioche Food Group was born.
In addition to periodic pop-up dinners, The Pioche Food Group owns and operates a food truck. Four corners locals at our table shared that it’s the very best food truck in the Farmington area and–in at least three cases–was the reason some of those locals signed up for the LorAmy event. Within the vast expanse of the Navajo Nation are two farms in which Justin works and innovates, developing new ways to grow crops consistent with Navajo foodways. He periodically invites high school students work on the farm to learn these farming techniques. At other times, he takes promising students to Phoenix and mentors them in “fine dining” techniques. He recruited one group of students to help prepare a charity dinner for hundreds of guests. Justin champions the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), a workforce development nonprofit that provides underserved teens a pathway to success.