Chef Justin Terry grew up in Raymond and now runs a Japanese restaurant in Paris. Photo by Clémence Sahuc

As he stands in the dining room of his Japanese restaurant in the middle of Paris’s 17th arrondissement, Chef Justin Terry seems to be a man utterly in his element.

In fact, he’s thousands of miles and an ocean away from his childhood home in Raymond. There, as a boy, he won a blue ribbon for his chocolate cream pie at a country fair, and as a young man earned culinary and dietary science degrees from Southern Maine Community College. A chef he worked with in Westbrook at the start of his career compared the young Terry to a young Anthony Bourdain.

How that boy from Raymond reached the City of Light, Love and baguettes and opened an eco-conscious Japanese restaurant is a tale and a half.

Even on a gloomy February day, Terry’s Izakaya by Just Ramen is open and airy, with natural light streaming in from several arched glass doorways. The arches open onto wooden decks that lead down to the walkways and ponds of Martin Luther King Park, the central green space in the eco-friendly Clichy-Batignolles neighborhood.

Green walls stretch to the exposed duct work. Dark wooden tables and chairs have a simple, clean aesthetic, and burnt orange couches dot the room, inviting customers to hang out once the ramen, bentos, donburi and Japanese-style tapas have been eaten, and the dishes cleared away. It’s the atmosphere that Terry cultivates, here. The Japanese word “izakaya” is made up of three characters that mean, in order: Stay, drink, place.

On the day I visited, Terry, 32, moved through the service kitchen with a fluidity that defies his tall frame. That kitchen, which doubles as a bar, is equipped with little but undercounter refrigeration and warming drawers. He’s explaining in English – with a hint of French language intonation – that the actual cooking happens in a tiny kitchen upstairs, which has a high-powered ventilation hood, several induction burners and a three-bay sink.


He’s casually comfortable making an espresso for me and a double for himself while concurrently checking in with Sous Chef Robin Hautfeuille about progress on the morning’s prep list and with his front-of-house manager on the day’s bookings, which have been curtailed by the city’s decision to close the park because of high winds. We talk egg cookery, and he tells me about his favorite knife – a shiny 14-inch, carbon steel, Japanese-made French chef’s knife that he bought for just 14 euros (about $15) at a yard sale.

“It was a rusty mess when I bought it,” he said. “But it’s my go-to now.”

Terry’s quiet humility, evenness of temper, and thoughtful reserve are quickly evident.

As the soft-spoken Dean Terry, Justin’s dad and a retired chef himself, put it in an interview, “He’s not a spotlight kind of kid.”

Chef Justin Terry fell in love with ramen – one of his own versions is pictured here – after tasting the ramen from Pai Men Miyake in Portland. Photo by Clémence Sahuc


Dean Terry and Cindy Terry (Justin’s mom) say that although he’s low-key, their son has exacting standards. He’s persnickety about the consistency of his handmade udon noodles, the salinity of his fermentations (he tests it frequently), and the color of his ramen broth (he checks with a gauge). Cindy said that Justin has conducted experiments in the kitchen since he was 2, when she first let him crack an egg.


“He was always in there with his friends trying to figure out what different ingredients would do to a dish or how they would work together differently if you added them in another order,” she said. These days, the couple splits their time between the Bahamas and Old Orchard Beach.

After graduating from SMCC, Justin Terry went on to get a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. He’s lived in Paris, with his French wife, Justine, for 10 years. The couple met in Bam Bam bakery and coffee shop in Portland when she was a student at the University of Maine School of Law. Terry recalls breakfast dates at Miss Portland Diner on Marginal Way early in their courtship. He still prefers a greasy spoon to a more formal brunch place.

Early in his career, Terry spent time in kitchens in Maine. In the lodge at Grant’s Kennebago Camps in Rangeley, he made many omelets in short order – too many, he recalls – and gutted freshly caught trout. For two years, he was the weekend kitchen manager at Avita, a residential memory care facility in Westbrook. It was there, he says, that he fell in love with the job of being a chef, a testament to his boss, chef Jamie Bell, whom he considers his mentor.

Justin was green when they started working together, recollected Bell, now Director of Culinary Operations for Avita’s parent company, Northbridge Companies. “His eagerness was inspiring, though. Nothing short of a young Anthony Bourdain. He showed trust, skill, integrity and desire.”

Terry’s first job in Paris was as garde manger (keeper of the cold station in a classic French restaurant kitchen scheme) at Le Taillevent, a two Michelin-starred establishment in the 8th arrondissement. The chef at the time was militant (you’d be lucky if your mistakes were not thrown in your face), the hours grueling (80-90 per week), and the pay low (1,400 euros/month, about $1,500).

But Terry had no complaints. “That job taught me to be super refined in my cooking,” he said. “It can be tedious. But you learn that every detail, every step in a cooking process, matters.”


Next, he headed up the cold station at Restaurant Apicius, another Paris institution, this with one Michelin star. The restaurant is known for serving double-sided racks of lamb and tête de veau (whole calf’s heads) that are cooked in the kitchen, then presented with a flourish tableside, where they are carved. Terry was responsible for preparing some of the accoutrements, like cold herby vinaigrettes, to these showstopper dishes.

He took a break from the Michelin-star kitchen grind. He hoped to open his own restaurant one day, so in 2017 to hone his business skills, he signed up for several government-sponsored entrepreneurial incubator courses. But it wasn’t until early 2020 that he and Justine signed a letter of intent to buy a restaurant. In March that year, when COVID rocked the world, the purchase fell through. Terry had neither a restaurant space nor clientele to frequent it, but he never gave up his dream of owning a Japanese restaurant.

A section of the noodle-making machine that Chef Justin Terry uses to make the Japanese noodles for his ramen soup. Photo courtesy of Just Ramen


Terry credits Bell with opening his palate to Japanese food. It happened simply, but it changed his life. Sometime around 2014, his boss shared with him some leftovers from Pai Men Miyake in Portland. “I’d only known packet ramen up to that point,” Terry said. Atingle, the very next day, he went to Pai Men Miyake for more ramen. It was the first of many visits.

By the time Terry moved to Paris, he was a passionate fan of Japanese food. In Paris, even while training to master French cuisine, he hit the ramen shops on Rue de Sainte Anne, a street that spans the city’s 1st and 2nd arrondissements and an area that since the 1970s has served as a hub for Japanese culture in France. His interest continued to grow, and in 2017, he signed up for an intensive two-week ramen school in Japan. There, he learned how to painstakingly compose the elements of the popular dish: noodles, tare (seasoning), broth, toppings and aromatic oil.

“So many folks think, ‘Oh, I’ll just have a bowl of soup,’ without understanding all the work that goes into building that bowl of ramen. The broth can take up to 18 hours to make,” Terry said. And each of the elements must correspond to the specific type of broth the cook has made.


Just Ramen, the umbrella name Terry uses for all his food ventures, started as a pandemic business. Terry would prepare DIY Ramen kits and deliver them to customers, their choice of shio (salt) and shoyu (soy) chicken, spicy tantanmen or shio vegan soup. Then, in the summer of 2020, when outdoor terraces provided a COVID-safe environment for Parisians to dine, Terry got a gig cooking African-Japanese fusion dishes for 750 people a night alongside Top Chef contestant Mory Sacko. The two cooked together at a pop-up restaurant that was temporarily staged in front of the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art museum on the Avenue du President-Wilson in the 16th arrondissement.

At the same time, Terry had a side job as a consulting chef, fleshing out menus for a poutine restaurant just down the road from where he now operates Izakaya by Just Ramen. It, too, had a lovely terrace for safe outdoor dining. He asked the owner if he could hold a pop-up ramen restaurant in the space. Oui!

During one of these pop-ups, he happened to connect with the folks behind HOBA Project; the organization assembles chefs committed to producing sustainable fast-casual food into a single food hall. The hall operates from March to October in the building next to Martin Luther King Park, itself on the site of an old railyard on the very northwesterly edge of central Paris.

The hall is home to five tiny kitchens, from one of which Terry now runs Just Ramen. Diners eat their meals in the dining space downstairs or on the covered yet sunny terrace outside the hall. The terrace offers a 180-degree view of the park, which was designed with eco-friendliness in mind. Just Ramen has been an anchor at the hall from the start. But the other four spots usually rotate with the seasons, and a roster of chefs have offered various foods, including hummus bowls, enchiladas and vegan African dishes.

As a condition of tenancy, all the chefs must agree to keep the carbon footprint of every meal to 2.2 kg of CO2 emissions – the emissions equivalent to driving an average-sized car 5 miles. Bon Pour Le Climat, an organization that champions concrete actions chefs and eaters can take to curtail their food’s impact on the earth, offers guidelines for reaching that number.

To meet the standards, Terry has figured out a zero-food waste routine to make ramen broth. He uses no cardboard or single-use plastics, and he packs to-go orders in returnable covered glass bowls; when they return the bowls, the customers get their deposits back. Although many of the base ingredients Terry requires are shipped from Japan, he sources his produce and proteins locally.


An array of the dishes that Chef Justin Terry serves at his restaurant in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. Photo by Clémence Sahuc


For the past two winters, Terry has been the sole chef serving customers in HOBA’s downstairs dining room. That responsibility has required an expansion of his all-ramen menu. At first, he tried a dumb waiter for transporting steaming hot bowls of ramen from the upstairs kitchen to the dining room. It was, he soon discovered, a messy prospect.

Now, he offers rotating bento options for lunch with miso soup, long-simmered meats, house-made pickles, seasoned rice and a small sweet, like a matcha financier. At dinnertime, Terry’s small plate items include crispy rice and mushroom tartare; Japanese fried chicken (kaarage); Gillardeau oysters with shiso oil, white radish and trout roe; poached leeks wrapped in roasted nori and sliced to resemble maki; and thin slivers of fresh raw mackerel topped with daikon cress.

Although logistics drove his menu changes, they’ve set Terry on the right course to handle the influx of foot traffic he expects this summer. The park has been designated a fan zone for the 2024 Summer Olympic and the Paralympic games in Paris. Translation: A lot of potential customers.

“Given the limited kitchen and refrigeration space, I can do 100 covers max with a ramen-only menu, and doing that would leave me flat-out the next day,” Terry said.

He’s still carefully weighing his options to figure out the right mix of menu items for this next iteration of Just Ramen. But if the bento lunch he served me when I visited is any indication, the result is sure to be delicious.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the former editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at:

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