The Green Revolution: Chef Rachel Haggstrom’s Culinary Journey

UNITED STATES: Sustainability takes center stage this holiday season as an increasing number of diners seek out wholesome and fresh meals. In Paso Robles, California, The Restaurant at JUSTIN, under the culinary direction of Chef Rachel Haggstrom, has transformed farm-to-fork cooking into an artistic endeavor.

Utilizing the 26-acre garden at JUSTIN Vineyards as her culinary canvas, Chef Rachel integrates edible flower fields, exotic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and fresh honey into her menu. An impressive 95% of the ingredients she employs are locally procured.

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The culinary world is taking note, as evidenced by The Restaurant’s achievement of a Michelin Star for excellence and a Michelin Green Star—a newly introduced annual award recognizing “outstanding eco-friendly commitments.”

A typical menu at The Restaurant might feature offerings such as soup with sunchokes, apples, and horseradish, or local snapper with Périgord black truffle, potato, chive, and crème fraiche.

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In the realm of fine dining, Chef Rachel stands out as something of an anomaly. Although the number of female chefs is increasing, women constitute only 7% of head chefs at Michelin-starred establishments. Nevertheless, Chef Rachel is forging her own path toward sustainability. In a conversation with her, we delved into her culinary origin story and sought her advice for budding culinary artists.

The visionary approach reflected on the plate extends far beyond the dining room, permeating every facet of Haggstrom’s life. Describing the restaurant’s success, she emphasizes, “We’re doing what’s right by our guests, our team, the business, and the community. That’s our secret sauce.” Yet, it doesn’t come without its share of challenges. As one of the 25.2% of female chefs in the country, Haggstrom sees this as an opportunity for both the industry and society to strive for improvement. “Just allowing us at the table isn’t enough for females in the industry achieving success or leadership roles; you have to allow the female to have that voice.”

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For Haggstrom, her pillars of support are her husband, Mattias, and daughter, Olivia. She notes, “For every strong person, male or female, there’s a business partner or personal partner that helps them succeed.” This sentiment holds particular significance for Haggstrom, especially as she recently earned her first MICHELIN Star. Expressing the surreal nature of the achievement, she says, “It’s an unrealistic fantasy, I want to use the word surreal because it’s hard to imagine.” Notably, Haggstrom not only secured One Star for Justin but also a Green Star, spotlighting the team’s groundbreaking approach to sustainable gastronomy.

“Perfect isn’t obtainable, but if we don’t set those expectations for ourselves, we’re lessening our goals,” Haggstrom reflects on what propels her forward. Despite the individual accolades, she takes joy in collectively celebrating this success. “It means the world not just to myself and to the team but also to the people that participated in supporting us.”

Also Read: From CA to Entrepreneur: Sourabh Jain’s Story of Creating The EleFant


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