Justin Donaldson brings artistry to private catering

Tulsa chef transports dinner guests with his artistic takes on global cuisine.



Chef Justin Donaldson’s worldly travels inspire his private dinner menus. After spending years in restaurant kitchens, Donaldson began a private catering service.

For Justin Donaldson, a white plate is a blank slate.

That plate might start with a savory sorbet made from red beets. It’s loosely nested in ribbons of golden beets and herbs. Then it’s dotted with black caviar. In the end, it’s a beautiful work of art.

Donaldson is known in Tulsa for catering private parties. So those lucky enough to have attended a party with Donaldson in the kitchen know his food is something special.

“From all my past experiences and all my new experiences, I like to push myself,” Donaldson says.

And for him, the artistic sense of his food comes naturally. “It’s almost like common sense to me,” he says. “First it has to taste amazing. Then it has to be visually appealing.”

The appeal he has created comes in part from working in some of the most renowned kitchens in the country, including New York City’s Gilt and Cafe Gray, Tru in Chicago and the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Before going out on his own, Donaldson was chef at the Polo Grill. It’s those positions paired with his travels that combine to bring a different culinary perspective and style to Tulsa.

Yucca cooked in squid ink with celery root volute, shaved celery, celery leaves and red onion

For Donaldson, it’s about more than creating a meal, but a sensory dining experience. That comes in part from the great food he has eaten all over the world.

A recent trip to Bangkok to the restaurant Bo Lan was one such event. “The food, the ambiance, the atmosphere, the whole feel of it was just magical,” Donaldson says. “And places like the French Laundry or Alinea in Chicago, those places give everything. Not just food, not just service. They take you from one reality to another realm.”

Tulsans’ own kitchens become Donaldson’s space for creating those new realities. First, he meets with the client to talk about foods, to get to know them and understand their vision for the party. Then he submits a menu, which, if agreed upon, becomes a tasting menu with wine pairings for the client.

“It’s kind of a different level of catering,” Donaldson says. “When people say ‘catering,’ I’m not the guy who will show up with chafing dishes and chocolate-covered strawberries. That’s not what I do. I do push the envelope a little bit. It’s a little bit avant-garde.”

When Donaldson arrives at a client’s home for the dinner, he brings “the restaurant” with him: That means the pots, pans, flatware, dishware, even the garbage cans.

Dr. Grant Cox has been at several events where Donaldson’s food was served.

“When you are served a Justin Donaldson dish, you automatically think about how cool it looks — then you have to figure out what it is,” Cox says. “He typically uses traditional flavor combinations, but they are not visually straightforward, and you have to taste the food to figure it out. I’ve always enjoyed great food, but the visual presentation and the intellectual thought required to unlock the mystery of each of his dishes is really incredible.”

A seasonal salad artfully features mushroom soil, artichoke, heirloom carrot, pickled radish, squash, zucchini, beets, roasted mushroom, Brussels sprouts, flowers, potato and carrot gel.

Being a private chef and caterer allows Donaldson the freedom in his schedule to travel and taste cuisines from different cultures.

“Eating food from an elderly lady in a hut in the Philippines, that inspires me,” Donaldson says. “I’m interested in the soul and the heart of the food.”

 

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June 2019

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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
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More information

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Cost: free & open to the public

Where:
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910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
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View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
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Contact Name: Cindy Armstrong

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Then, Here/Now: Creating Community in the Center is a group exhibition that illuminates the histories and presence/presents of LGBTQIA+ art collectives and projects that help to ensure visibility...

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307 East M. B. Brady St.
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Telephone: 918-585-1234
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Cost: free & open to the public

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910 S. Boston Ave.
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Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

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National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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More information

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Telephone: 918-508-2709
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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

The Please Touch the Art exhibit breaks the rules of traditional art exhibits and makes art accessible, especially for visitors who are visually impaired or blind. Guests are encouraged to touch...

Cost: free & open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74135
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Armstrong

More information

The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
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View map »

More information

Then, Here/Now: Creating Community in the Center is a group exhibition that illuminates the histories and presence/presents of LGBTQIA+ art collectives and projects that help to ensure visibility...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
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View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: $100/week; $400/4weeks; $30/day

Where:
Tulsa Hills Church
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Sponsor: Joys to the World, Inc.
Telephone: 918-282-3191
Contact Name: Jenny Ramnath
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Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


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Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
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Show More...
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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »

More information

The Please Touch the Art exhibit breaks the rules of traditional art exhibits and makes art accessible, especially for visitors who are visually impaired or blind. Guests are encouraged to touch...

Cost: free & open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74135
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Armstrong

More information

Then, Here/Now: Creating Community in the Center is a group exhibition that illuminates the histories and presence/presents of LGBTQIA+ art collectives and projects that help to ensure visibility...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: $100/week; $400/4weeks; $30/day

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Sponsor: Joys to the World, Inc.
Telephone: 918-282-3191
Contact Name: Jenny Ramnath
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Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Then, Here/Now: Creating Community in the Center is a group exhibition that illuminates the histories and presence/presents of LGBTQIA+ art collectives and projects that help to ensure visibility...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: $100/week; $400/4weeks; $30/day

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840 W. 81st Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Joys to the World, Inc.
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Contact Name: Jenny Ramnath
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
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Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
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More information

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