Since May of 2014, Chef Joaquim Filho (you may know him as “Chef Jo”) has been transforming The Just Crust’s menu, one delicious dish at a time. He spent over a month and a half tweaking the recipe for our pizza dough alone, perfecting the thin crust that everyone has come to savor. He is most proud of the comments he has gotten from native Italians, who applaud him on the authenticity of his hand-stretched (and usually hand-tossed) crusts. Chef Joaquim has expanded our offerings to include sandwiches, pastas, and fresh-made soups, drawing on his love of fresh, local ingredients. He is proud to be a part of The Just Crust and feels like he’s come full-circle, from working 80+ hours a week as a subcontracted dishwasher when he first came to the United States to leading a team dedicated to fair treatment and fair wages for its workers.
Chef Joaquim was raised on a coffee farm in the mountains of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where he began cooking for his family’s field workers while still a boy. His passion for fresh-grown, seasonal ingredients was sparked by his enrollment at an Organic Agricultural School set up by missionaries in his tiny hometown. Coming to the US as a young man, Chef Filho quickly worked his way up the ranks from a dishwasher to Cook and Trainer at Legal Seafoods. Spending a time as a Mongolian Grill Chef at Fire + Ice, Filho discovered the joy and excitement of cooking in front of an audience. Open kitchens became his home-turf as he became a Line Cook, then eventually Sous Chef at Todd English’s open-kitchen concept Kingfish Hall in Faneuil Hall. Chef Filho was promoted by English to run both locations of Figs Restaurants, in Charlestown and Beacon Hill, as Executive Chef and later as the Regional Culinary Co-Director for the Olives Group and as Chef de Cuisine of Olives. Landing at The Just Crust as a consultant, he became our full-time Chef back in spring of 2014 and in fall of the same year, he took on the responsibilities of General Manager as well. We are proud to have this multi-talented Chef with us, leading our team with his depth of experience and understanding of what it means to work at every level of the restaurant industry.
An Interview with Chef Joaquim Filho
Where were you raised and where have you lived? What brought you to Boston?
I was raised on a small coffee farm in the mountains above Conselheiro Pena, Minas Gerais State, Brazil. I moved to Boston in 2002 and lived here ever since.
Hope for a better life for myself and my family brought me here. We were very poor and had no opportunities for education or jobs other than subsistence-level farming back home.
What is your educational background? In the food industry?
I got interested in Organic farming when i was a student at Efa Chico Mendes Agriculture School, a revolutionary school opened by missionaries in my hometown, where they taught the local farm kids how to cultivate food organically and in ecologically sustainable ways
What drew you to this industry?
I was the only one of 7 brothers and sisters who always helped my mom in the kitchen from a young age. I started cooking for large groups of workers – from 10 to 30 or more, sometimes out in the camps while they were picking the coffee, when I was still a kid. In Boston, I started working as a dishwasher at Legal Seafoods but was eager to learn to cook professionally, and soon moved up the ranks.
What is your definition of a good restaurant experience?
Every guest should be made to feel special, like an honored guest in my home. I think of food as a bridge between the cook and the guest – if the Chef is cooking from the soul, it will elevate the diners’ entire experience.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my four-year-old son and my wife, following soccer scores from Brazil, cooking at home.