Chef’s Corner – Julia Ning

Julia Ning, Chef/Owner, Station 5 Table & Bar
Chef Julia Ning’s affinity for the culinary arts was forged in the kitchens of her grandmothers, as a young girl in Boston, Massachusetts. Of Chinese and French-Canadian descent, it was alongside her Chinese grandmother, “Ngin Ngin,” that Julia learned her undying hospitality. She would watch in awe as “Ngin Ngin” transformed her kitchen into a non-stop hub of cooking and entertaining for the Chinese-American community in Boston. It was at the knee of her French Canadian grandmother, “MeMe,” that Julia discovered her love for braising, charcuterie, and pickling; and experienced the consuming comfort, warmth, and love that can exude from a home cooked meal. With the help of “Ngin Ngin” and “MeMe,” Julia developed a passion for artfully seasoned and creatively executed comfort food.

As a young adult, following her parents’ wishes, Julia attended business school, but desperately craved an outlet to express her creativity. Fortunately, not too much later, she found herself back in the kitchen. She credits learning the ropes to her time spent in Baltimore and Washington D.C., working under several famous chefs, which progressed into consulting gigs and work in prestigious restaurants in Chicago and California.

Her journey led her to Miami, where she held the position of sous chef at Area 31, and then chef de cuisine at the esteemed Khong River House. Her wish to venture out on her own was granted when she met her future business partners and the concept of Station 5 Table & Bar was born. Her aspiration was to merge the home cooking of her past with the high end execution she had learned along the way, and imbue it with the spirit of a truly American restaurant: multicultural and inclusive of everyone.

What are the staple ingredients in your kitchen?
Good olive oil, salt, butter, the rest are up to the season we are in. Oh, and Cheetos.

Who is your biggest culinary influence?
My grandmothers, MeMe and Ngin Ngin.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Ever since I was little I’ve been around food and cooking. My family owned a restaurant in Boston for 70 years and working there at some point in your life was kind of a rite of passage. My grandmothers taught me how to cook, and showed me how food can convey comfort, warmth, and love. That is where my passion for creatively-crafted home-cooked meals comes from.

If you had to pick one food item to best describe yourself, what would it be and why?
Fried rice. There’s a lot of stuff in there.

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Chocolate chip cookies

Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in Miami right now?

Describe Station 5 Table & Bar in 3 words…
Handcrafted, homegrown, delicious.

Your restaurant is known for its Cheetos-topped Braised Short Rib Tacos. What inspired you to create this dish?
I’m a kid at heart and growing up I was never allowed to eat much junk food, so when I was creating my menu I look the opportunity to add an unexpected twist of whimsy and playfulness.

Your cocktail menu is noted as “Culinary Cocktails” as opposed to “Craft Cocktails.” What are Culinary Cocktails?
Our cocktails are “craft” by definition because we use housemade mixes and alcohol, like our tea-infused vodka, and tailor the drinks specifically to the customer. But when we were putting together our cocktail menu, we always kept the food in mind, thinking of what drinks would pair best with the dishes on the menu, so that’s where our play on craft cocktails, “culinary cocktails” was born.

Why did you choose Sunset for your restaurant location, as opposed to other, trendier Miami locations?
This area was a no-brainer. We wanted an area that was going to be accessible to everyone and could become the neighborhood staple, that go-to place where families, friends, young couples, go to feel at home. The restaurant just fits in here. Like the neighborhood itself, it’s consistent and welcoming, with a little bit of an edge if you look close enough.

What is your favorite thing about living in Miami?
It’s so diverse! As a chef, this is such an exciting city to work in because there are no limits to how creative you can be with your food because the community is responsive to it. If I ever need inspiration for the menu, I just take a walk down any street in the city…something will spark my creative juices.

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