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March 15, 2021

Meet Chef James Lustig - Musician, Pittsburgher and Piada Partner. He’s a dynamo in the kitchen and a vibrant, talented guy with a love for life. Five years ago, we noticed his strong work ethic and massive potential, and invited him to join Team Piada. James now oversees Piada Oakland, one of our busiest locations, on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus.

When James isn’t busy dishing out dozens of entrées an hour to hungry college students, he’s focusing on his passion projects, like music.

Music is more than a hobby for James. It’s a life-long friend. During the good times and the bad, James knows that he can rely on Paula, his Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty, or Linda, his Epiphone Acoustic Sun Splash. Some of his biggest musical influences are Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Beethoven on piano, Eminem’s lyricism, Neil Peart on drums, Freddie Mercury vocally, and Led Zeppelin as a whole.

“I’ve been playing guitar for 17 years, and piano for 25. Music is my companion… Always with me, both in my mind and in my heart. There to keep me company when I’m lonely. There to make me happy when I’m sad. It’s always there. I’ve met some of my closest friends because of music. It brings people together who may not be considered “similar” and can raise the voice of a generation. Music also gives me a clear goal: hear song, learn song, play song, enjoy. I could go on and on.”

James’ life motto is “work hard, play hard, be kind.” He carries this mission with him wherever he goes.

“Everyday I focus on how I treat others, both inside and outside our four walls. I hope that an impact I can make at Piada is championing Genuine Hospitality and letting that permeate both my work life and personal life as well.”

James has a seasoned track record at Piada, bouncing around from store to store in the greater Pittsburgh area and working under a variety of mentors. He’s had a talented team behind him in all of his ventures and he’s always felt supported along the way.

“I’m lucky enough to have had great mentors in the restaurant business my whole life. I’ve learned that to get better, communication is key. You have to communicate with your team and allow your leaders to communicate with you. When you support each other it takes the stress off.”

James loves to socialize and develop meaningful relationships. His ability to read people and adapt the conversation accordingly makes him a great leader.   

“I love interacting with so many people constantly, and helping to grow, develop and support my team. My leadership style is constantly changing. Different people require different styles of mentorship. Everyone is unique - some people learn in different styles than others.” 

It’s this intuitive, empathetic adaptation in his coaching style that helps his mentees learn and achieve.   

For James, Piada isn’t just about a paycheck - it’s about the culture. He’s found a strong support system at Piada and deep pride for the brand.  

“Seeing my Team grow makes me happy. The most important thing I’ve learned at Piada is that no one's perfect. As hard as we all try, everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing that we do is learn from those mistakes and correct our course in the future. That’s how we achieve great things.” 

We’re lucky to have James on our team. He’s made a huge impact on our company and in the lives of everyone he’s worked with. 

If you’re looking for a career with huge growth potential, head to!