Hot Chef: Justin Schoville


Justin Schoville started his culinary career as a dishwasher at a small breakfast restaurant in his hometown of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, but that didn’t last long. He did a short stint at a local bar and grill, then packed his bags and boarded a plane to New Zealand for a 32-day backpacking trip. “There was just something about New Zealand that started a fire in my culinary desire that has yet to burn out,” he says.

In September 2006, Justin moved to Rochester and opened Sontes as their executive chef. After a few years, he decided it was time to try something new, so he began working at Zzest. “I have been here ever since [I left Sontes]. I have left a couple of times to work in Chicago and California, but the atmosphere and family camaraderie [at Zzest] has always brought me back.”



Justin finds his inspiration for food by reading a lot to keep his mind open: cookbooks, food history and gastronomy science books. “Sometimes a good long walk will help me to pair products and ideas together,” he explains.

For the beginner in the kitchen or in business, Justin suggests, “Season properly. Salt and pepper go a long way.” Also, “Stay focused, take notes, have a great attitude and have a sense of urgency.”  

Justin loves to cook homemade pasta from scratch at home. “I have a nice-size workbench at home that I like to roll out fresh pasta by hand the old way.” He pairs his pasta with his favorite wine—Willamette Valley pinot noir. 


“The trend that is going to grow in my opinion is going to be South American cuisine,” explains Justin. “We saw a rise in Spain, the Nordic region, Singapore and Tokyo. I am also seeing a lot of movement out of South America.” We will have to watch for these trends on the Zzest menu.

Surprisingly, the dehydrator is Justin’s favorite kitchen gadget. “We use the dehydrator to dry out veggies and grind them down for spices or to coat proteins with [dried black garlic powder that we use on the lamb loin]. The dehydrator allows us to use the powders or chips for our popcorn as well, like the roasted chicken popcorn, Fruit Loop, and chili cheese with basil.”  That’s a great holiday gift idea for any cook or foodie.

Zzest Cafe & Bar on 2015 Open Table List

Zzest is on Open Table’s 2015 list of the 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America. Justin definitely had a part in it. There were eight Minnesota restaurants, seven from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and one from Rochester: Zzest Cafe & Bar.

With the new restaurant layout and “revival of the house pasta program,” Zzest is the restaurant to try. With its award-winning, intensely beautiful and flavorful food (with just the right amount of salt and pepper) and Justin at the helm, we think you will agree.

Zzest is located at 1190 16th Street SW #600, Rochester and is open Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. They will open Sunday and Monday for private parties and special events. For more information visit