Born and raised in Nabb, Indiana, Justin McMillen always had his sights set on becoming a culinary artist. In fact, McMillen began his chef career long before he actually became a chef—thanks to his family. As a young boy, McMillen loved watching both of his grandmothers make meals in the kitchen and in no time at all, he was helping along right beside them. His father, an avid hunter and cook, also fostered his love for food, so much so that when McMillen was in high school, he found a mentor to guide him in the right direction. In high school, McMillen found a mentor in Chef Lonnie Donahue, who encouraged McMillen to train and compete in culinary competitions, eventually helping him choose the Culinary Institute of America for culinary school.
Upon graduating in 2008, McMillen went immediately into the restaurant business, working as the executive chef of Windsor Restaurant in New Albany, Indiana for two years, and then moved to Clarksville, Missouri to serve as Chef de Cuisine at Overlook Farm. In 2011, McMillen joined critically acclaimed St. Louis restaurant Sidney Street Cafe. Over the past four years, McMillen has grown to admire the spastic and creative fine dining that the restaurant features. Whether he is making fried chicken, soufflés, cheesecake or homemade ramen, McMillen believes in the art of pairing foods with one another, “If you love the flavors, then there is no turning back.”
At Sidney Street Cafe, McMillen works with Chef/Owner Kevin Nashan to contribute new and creative additions to the menu, and he also corresponds with farmers for ingredients and breaks down protein. While he has a hate-love relationship with stress, McMillen admits that he loves it all—from fixing the ice machine to smooth Saturday service—and believes that happy customers make for a happy chef. McMillen also aims to be the first one in the kitchen and the last one out, but in his off hours, you might find him traveling or visiting with his family.