Over 8 million people subscribe to Joshua Weissman's Youtube channel where the chef, bestselling author and digital personality creates culinary content with character. Under the handle @flakeysalt he has 7 million followers consuming his content on Tiktok. In addition to being an internationally-known creator, Joshua is releasing his third cookbook this month and settling into Austin for the second time.
Aside from early training from his mom on the basics of cooking, Joshua says he was 100 percent self-trained. Then he moved to Austin (the first time) at 18-years-old and got an on-the-job education working in restaurants, culminating with a lead position at Uchiko at 21-years-old. He left that job to focus on his media platform, and he left Austin so that his now wife (who he married earlier this year) could attend law school. But, their deal was that when she was done, they could live wherever Joshua chose. In July, that led them back to Austin with a new studio and big plans. We caught up with Joshua to learn more.
What do you love about Austin that brought you back?
There's a lot I love about Austin. The food scene is underrated and overrated at the same time, but in a good way. If you're in Austin and walk into a random restaurant the odds it’s going to be a good restaurant are ridiculously high.
I love the people in this city, they’re creative, free-thinking and relaxed while also having a work ethic and knowing what's required to achieve things and build something. I think that the restaurant culture here isn't overly competitive, it's a big family and everybody's helping each other win. Everybody's collaborative and wants to live a good life, it’s super cool. Most cities aren’t like that. And it's like a big city, but with small town vibes. You're going to run into people you know all over town all the time and it’s awesome.
You had a lead position at Uchiko at 21-years-old?
There’s the Chef de Cuisine who runs everything and the Executive Sous Chef and they’re like the President and Vice President. Then there are sous chefs, and they do the majority of the work and make the kitchen operate.
I was doing lead training work which is like the transition point to sous or executive sous chef.
I trained everybody on the ethos of the restaurant and ingredients we used and whatever else they needed to become a sous chef or a line cook. I also did tournant work which was basically like a jack of all trades and would jump around doing different things. I know that there was a trajectory to do chef work there, but once you become a sous chef it's very hard to move on from that because the pay is dramatically better and it’s an achievement you're going have to work to get again at another restaurant, unless you stayed at that restaurant for three to four years with sous chef work, then you might get another sous chef position somewhere else, but most places you have to start at the bottom. It was a hard thing for me to deal with because I also had this other thing going on for me.
Because you started making cooking videos at 18?
I only started producing videos again hardcore when I was working at Uchiko. I was just doing it because my goal was to do exactly what I’m doing now, but the cool thing about Uchi and Uchiko and high-end hospitality is they help you with your goals. You work with a chef and they ask you to write down on a sheet of paper what you want to do, how you want to get better as a chef and your long-term and short-term goals. I put on my long-term goals that I wanted to have my own restaurants, but also to build a media platform. So, I started producing videos because I kept talking about it and knew I should be doing it on the side.
And now you focus on creating content.
It was sous chef with CDC potential, or this. The upside for this is so dramatically higher and I have control. I can open my own restaurant at some point doing this, whereas staying at a restaurant, it could take 20 years, this could take five or less.
What do you miss about working in a restaurant?
I’m always hungry for in person stuff, I miss the camaraderie. Not every restaurant has this, but in fine dining most of them have this incredible company culture.
What kind of restaurant do you want to open?
We have a bunch of concepts. I probably can't say exactly, except that my first restaurant will be in Austin, and there would be one that's my signature restaurant that would be more contemporary, but also approachable. I don't want it to be too expensive or hoity toity and scare people away. I want people to feel welcome. I also have a few other concepts that are more scalable, a fast casual place and I would love to open a burger place.
What part of all the things you do brings you the most enjoyment?
The most enjoyable part for me is the people. I care a lot about the people that are either eating my food, watching my content or reading my books. That’s the reason why I do everything. I’m constantly in this weird state of wishing that everyone felt the same way that I do about food, so I spend every hour trying to convince people to feel that way somehow. I don't care if people cook. I just want them to feel something from food. I want to make something that makes them think a little deeper about it…Even someone who's not into food, knowing that someone spent three months developing what's on the plate, and that it took 72 hours to get all the different components of it prepared, and you're going to eat it in 30 seconds. That's crazy.
You’ve written about being overweight as a kid and now you’re fit even though you make and eat decadent dishes. How do you stay in shape?
I work out. I’ve also got to a better place with how I see my body and I know myself pretty well.
I was a pretty overweight kid. I loved food. I wanted to lose weight and over two years I lost about 120 pounds. Then I reached an equilibrium and could sustain that. That period taught me how to regulate my diet and understand food at a much higher level. It's not like I don't every once in a while have a week where I go crazy and I'm at restaurant after restaurant, but then I'll just eat a little less and stick with chicken and broccoli. I developed a really healthy relationship with my body and the food that I eat.
It must be harder as a chef.
That’s what made me push through and force myself to get over it because what career was I going to have if I couldn’t eat bread or analyze the components of a dish because it has too many calories in it? I found a way to do it. I don’t eat crazy every day. I might make five pieces of fried chicken one week, but I'll have a bite to taste it to make sure the flavors are correct and I’ll taste the sauces, but I'm not eating everything.
In your new cookbook, what is your favorite dish to cook?
I love bagels and I'm really proud of a New York bagel recipe in there. I went very old school with the way that they were made.
Tell me about the knife you brought to the shoot.
The cleaver was made by Jody Hale who has a knife company called Pie Cutlery. He’s a one-man band and forges the steel and every single thing on that knife by hand. It’s a piece of art. You don't see that level of precision by hand, it's typically a machine, it's beautiful work. It's also very expensive. That knife was like two grand.
Worst advice you’ve received?
I don't want to say anything that's going to upset anybody, but as it relates to me, the worst advice I ever got was to push for college. I knew what I wanted to do, I didn't think I needed to go to college to do it and I didn’t want to go. But I was going to go anyway, and then got rejected from every college I applied to, even the culinary schools. I’m not going to name which one, but one of the most famous culinary schools in the world rejected me, then six or seven years later wanted to pay me to come and give a speech to their entire student body about how to be successful as a chef.
Anything you’d like to add?
I think that people should spend more time trying to find ways to do things they like and spend less time doing things that they don't like. I just wish more people did more things that they liked.
Be a good person.
Most underrated kitchen gadget
A blender, they can do a lot more than smoothies.
If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life
It changes, right now a prime rib with gravy, a pom rosti, mac and cheese and a vegetable.
For beginners, All About Braising. The process of braising will teach you almost everything you need to know to be a great cook. If you make a great pot roast every single night for a couple months, you will be a good cook.
Favorite restaurants in Austin?
Right now, Emmer & Rye, Uchiko, Suerte, Canje and I love Laundette’s brunch.
The restaurant culture here isn't overly competitive, it's a big family and everybody's helping each other win.