Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee
Editorial@LHVC.com 

Justin Hirshfield – Familiar Face

 

Vicky Dorvee

Justin Hirshfield, this month’s Familiar Face, is in his element when he’s in the kitchen at 1914 House.

When he was just 24 years old, Justin Hirshfield was likely the youngest head chef in Boulder at his gig with Laudisio’s Ristorante. Hirshfield is familiar to those in Niwot because of his 12 years working at the Niwot Market where he could be spotted most days. But, about a year and a half ago he joined the team at 1914 House as their head chef, so now it’s the evening crowd that’s most likely to see him.

You may never have crossed paths with Hirshfield when he didn’t have a hat on his head or a smile on his face. No doubt you’ve tasted his creations at the market, and fortunately Niwot continues to be privy to his friendliness, creativity, and his consistent desire to put out fine cuisine.

The words lucky and fortunate pop up frequently when talking with Hirshfield. The gusto he brings to all things in his life makes it easy for the community to appreciate him, so we wanted to find out more about him.

Left Hand Valley Courier (LHVC) -Where did you grow up?

Justin Hirshfield (JH) -I was born in Denver and have lived in the Denver-Boulder area my whole life.

LHVC - When did preparing food first spark your interest?

JH - I started cooking when I was 14. I was working while being in a work-study program during high school. When I was 16, I was fortunate enough to start working for the Laudisio family. They really started my culinary career path. After many years working for them, I was sent to study In Italy. On my return I became sous chef, then eventually head chef. It was a fabulous experience.

LHVC - How did you start to work for Laudisio’s at such a young age?

JH - I was sitting at the bar with my folks having dinner and was just blown away by what I was eating and by watching the chefs. I started talking with one of the chefs after dinner and I said it would be amazing if I could start to work there. He handed me an application and I showed up after the school the next day. Before I even pulled the application out of my backpack he said, “As long as you’re here, you want to get started?” and that was that. For the first few months I got paid with a bowl of pasta. Next thing you know, I was an official employee.

LHVC - How did you come to live in Niwot?

JH - In 2001 I had my accident - March 31, 2001 to be exact. We were expecting Ariel (his daughter) the following July. Ariel’s grandma and grandpa, who live and work in Niwot, modified their basement for us to move into after I was released from the hospital.

LHVC - What has been your biggest challenge?

JH - Obviously, after having broken my back in a motocross accident, it changed a lot in my life. It definitely took some time to readjust to my situation. I realized I needed to slow things down some. I was fortunate to have incredible family and friends that made up my support system during my recovery and adjustment period.

LHVC - NIwot has been the recipient of your cooking for a long time. How did that come about?

JH - I was actually going back to school to try and get into the brewing industry when lo and behold I was lucky enough to meet Bert Steele. I suddenly realized that my passion to be a chef and to continue to work in kitchens could still be realized. It was a great time and Bert and the Steeles let me be creative and have fun in their kitchen.

My time at the market allowed me to keep my head in the pots and pans while being a dad. Lots of people know me around town and also know Ariel. They would see me rolling around with this little peanut sitting on my lap.

When I got word of 1914 House opening I was immediately interested. I felt ready to get involved in restaurant-style cooking again. I was fortunate enough to hit the right chords and get introduced to 1914 House. It’s been a lot of fun so far!

LHVC – What activities outside of work keep you busy and what are your favorite distractions?

JH - I like to swim, sit ski, and home brew for my hobbies. I like to cook and entertain at home; however, I don’t have much time for that these days. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved to travel and I’ll go just about anywhere I can. I recently traveled to Japan, both the east and west coasts, and I’ve taken a cruise to the Caribbean.

LHVC – What do you like most about your job?

JH - I really enjoy being a part of a nice experience for other people. It’s so satisfying when I get a chance to look at the guests after a rush and see people enjoying themselves, smiling, laughing, and enjoying the food and drinks and the company. Food brings people together, the whole idea is to just hang out and be with friends and loved ones and have a good time.

 

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