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The Trip of a Lifetime

Chef Brother Luck’s Journey to China and Japan

On the set of Food Network’s, Beat Bobby Flay, Chef Brother Luck shows his chops by taking down the famous Iron Chef with his award-winning Pulled Pork Sliders.

On the set of Food Network’s, Beat Bobby Flay, Chef Brother Luck shows his chops by taking down the famous Iron Chef with his award-winning Pulled Pork Sliders.

Chef Brother Luck is jetlagged from his trip to Japan. In the misty morning, he slips into the welcoming warmth of the onsen, the hot springs outside his ryokan, his hotel. Locusts chirp, and a gong sounds from a local Buddhist temple, as he reflects on the magic of his beautiful surroundings.

His once-in-a-lifetime journey has begun.

As a young pre-teen, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, without any parental supervision, Chef Luck never dreamed he’d be taking this journey. He hung out with gang bangers, local pimps and hustlers, calling himself a “very young hoodlum.”

Working in kitchens was never a career. 

“It was a steak sandwich,” he says.

When he moved to Phoenix at the age of 16, he enrolled in a culinary program. The only reason he attended was to get a free lunch. 

Little did he know that joining the program, and finding his passion, would set him on a different path, leading him to win a scholarship to culinary school his senior year through C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, a non-profit that provides career opportunities in the foodservice industry for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment.

Now, sixteen years later, in a lovely twist of fate, as a winner of this year’s C-CAP alumni award, he received two scholarships--one to travel to Japan with three other chefs in partnership with the Gohan Society, the other to visit China in partnership with the Joyce Chen and Helen Chen Foundation Fund.

Both experiences were life-changing.

Every day in Japan, he visited fish and vegetable markets and worked in different restaurant kitchens. He learned the art of kaiseki cuisine, an exquisite sensory experience. This formal traditional Japanese meal is the original tasting menu. Based on the best ingredients of the season, it’s very structured, usually containing 26 bites and 13 courses.

In addition to embracing the seasons, Chef Luck learned the simplicity of connecting food back to its origins.

One day, a chef took Chef Luck to the docks to get fish directly from the fisherman instead of the market. After picking up the fish, the chef also took two, five gallon jugs of water from the boat. Chef Luck wondered why. That night, the chef cooked the crab in the water. 

“We salt our water to recreate the flavor of seawater,” Chef Luck says, “but that chef was getting his seawater directly from the source.” 

At every restaurant he visited, he prepared Ayu, a small fresh water fish. In one kitchen, he saw a small fish tank with live fish. Behind the hotel was a stream where they caught the fish. 

Each day at 2 pm., the chefs broke for lunch. During that time, they took tours, learning how miso was made, how sake was produced, and how Japanese wood plates and bowls were fashioned.

Chef Luck’s experiences in China were very different. In Shanghai, he was

most struck by the street markets and their connection to the community. 

One neighborhood was heavily Muslim-dominated, but their street food represented the flavors of both cultures. Chef Luck was inspired by a lamb dish. Skewered and cooked on the grill, it combined Middle Eastern spices like turmeric, coriander, and cumin, with Asian soy sauce, ginger and sugar.

Every one of Chef Luck’s experiences in Japan and China has shaped his own culinary journey. 

In April, he will open his new restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs, called IV by Brother Luck. 

In addition to celebrating that Chef is Brother Luck the fourth, his entire

Cuisine will be inspired by the symbolism of IV--the four seasons, the four elements, and the four corners, represented by the Spanish Colonial, Western, Native American and Latin American cultures. 

“Like the Japanese, who showed us their vendors,” Brother Luck says, “we in Colorado Springs have so many inspiring stories to tell--from the lady who collects my mushrooms, and the person who makes our plates, to the amazing whisky we make.

“As a kid, I was living day to day,” Chef Luck says. “I didn’t worry about goals or plan a future... I didn’t know there was a place called China until I made a Chinese dish.

“It’s exciting to actually explore these places, like China and Japan, that I just learned about through recipes. Now I have my own memories--and I can’t wait to share them.”