Thursday, June 23, 2011

☞ INTRODUCING: Chef Joe Johnson


Rocco DiSpirito debuted a new show on Bravo last week and the breakout star of the first episode happens to have a bit of a Harlem connection in his background.  With boldly presented dishes such as Shrimp and Grits with a Jalapeno Emulsion along with perfectly braised oxtail, 26-year-old Chef Joe Johnson wowed the celebrity dinner guests (which included Marcus Samuelsson) at Rocco's Dinner Party.  We had the luck to do a quick interview with the telegenic rising star who also happens to have his own website set up at: www.ChefJoeJohnson.com

HB: How did you get into the cooking profession?
JJ: I started cooking around age 7 with my grandmother in the kitchen. I saw a commercial for the Culinary Institute of America and instantly knew that was where I wanted to go for school. From that moment I would work as a dishwasher in country clubs and hotels in my local town in Tobyhanna PA (Poconos), just to get the experience of being in a kitchen.

HB: What are you working on these days?
JJ: I am working on a food social platform for chefs called Urpalate.com and a healthy lifestyle oatmeal juice drink called OMJ that I am going to bottle myself.

HB: Has appearing on Rocco's Dinner Party opened new doors for you?
JJ: Yes it has. I've been offered to do an online food show, some pretty cool write ups and also working on a pop up restaurant that will take place over the summer.

HB: What are your family connections to Harlem?
JJ: This makes me laugh...are we talking old Harlem or new Harlem? My grandfather and aunt live on 147th and 7th. Another aunt is on117th and St. Nick. My grandmother lives in an area now called Manhattan Valley. So, ever since I was a kid I was always in Harlem visiting relatives.

HB: Are there any plans for opening a Harlem restaurant?
JJ: Not at the moment but if some one said they wanted me to partner up of course I would look into. I am totally open to the idea.

HB: What are your thoughts about all the new changes in Harlem?
JJ: I think it's great! The prospect for Harlem to be what it is now has always been there, it just took some people to really believe in it again. It was the place to be back in the day. I'm glad it's becoming a "hot-spot" in NYC again.

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