On the Line: Benjamin Wallenbeck & Justin Odegard of Ways & Means Oyster House, Part Two
Justin and Ben actually sitting still.
Having twice the skill set in the back of the house means twice as much attention to detail. It also means double the personalities. Yet my time with Ben and Justin of Ways & Means taught me that collaboration and working towards a common goal (in this case, running an efficient kitchen) can only mean success. I interview them shortly before the afternoon management meeting, as they prepare for dinner service. Read our interview with Ben and Justin of Ways & Means, part one. And now, on to part two . . .
Name one thing you like about each other. Ben Wallenbeck: Justin's ability to show up every day with a sense of urgency and work ethic that never grows tired. Always holding himself to a high standard. Justin Odegard: Ben is an honorable man who treats others with the utmost respect.
What's your favorite childhood memory? J.O.: Free diving in the ocean. B.W.: Summertime swimming in the river, and Viola's double steak and double cheese subs. When you're not at the restaurant, what are you doing in your free time? B.W.: In my free time I am usually going out to eat, researching product online, reading the market reports and looking for creative ideas and inspiration for our menu here. J.O.: Watching my son and gardening.
What did you study in school? Did you always plan on being a chef? J.O.: In school I studied the playground. I decided to become a chef when I was 19. B.W.: I didn't really study in school I was never that interested in learning in the traditional classroom setting. Learning how to work was more interesting than learning how to sit still for seven hours every day at a desk.
Do you have skills that are not food-related? J.O.: Web design, gardening, microgreens, spearfishing.
Last song playing on your radio: J.O.: Bob Marley - Work. B.W.: Son Volt - Windfall. Benjamin: Tell us about growing up in New York. WNY is a hard-working, blue collar town. A lot of great food and drink, necessary to get through the cold winters. Amazing people who have a natural sense of community and local pride.
Last movie watched; how was it? J.O.: Ben Wallenbeck and Jonathan Cervantes turned me on to I Like Killing Flies. B.W.: Dallas Buyer's Club. So good.
Hardest lesson you've learned: J.O.: Drive safe. B.W.: That success is an opportunity for more work, not an opportunity for relaxation.
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