Tuesday, September 24, 2013
☞ INTRODUCING: Chef Joseph Johnson 2013
HB: Chef Marcus Samuelsson changed the food scene uptown and we expect that Minton's and The Cecil will do the same. What should folks expect?
JJ: Great food. We are introducing a new cuisine to the food world as a whole, but it just happens to be in Harlem. For me; Harlem is the place to be right now, to live, to hang out, and of course to cook.
HB: What was the process of creating the new menu like?
JJ: The process was great! I went to Ghana, Africa with chef/restaurateur Alexander Smalls to really understand African cuisine and better understand his vision of Afro-Asian cuisine. I was in Ghana for 16 days cooking and learning the foundation of West African food. I loved it!
It was one of greatest experiences of life. We made 37 different menus for Cecil. It was a hard and long journey to get here, but we really have something special. I am proud to be able to say I am a part of this.
HB: Will the food at the The Cecil overlap with the menu at Minton's Playhouse?
JJ: The Cecil is its own Restaurant with a separate menu and kitchen. I am Chef de Cuisine for The Cecil which is an Afro Asian American Brassiere, celebrating the foods of the African Diaspora. The Minton's cuisine is Southern Revival Cooking with low country notes , run by chef/restaurateur Alexander Smalls and chef de cuisine Banks White.
The overlap is we all work together as a team...taste masters running two separate restaurants under one roof. We are dedicated to the foods of the African Diaspora and it's contributions to the culinary landscape and conversation. I am excited and happy to work with such a knowledgeable, skilled and professional team.
HB: We always ask a fashion question for our Bespoke interviews. Who are your style icons or influences?
JJ: HaHa! Honestly I'm really into cool chef coats right now that crooked brooks makes for me and I love a colorful sneaker.
HB: What has surprised you the most about all the changes happening uptown?
JJ: That people have actually realized that Harlem is in Manhattan. I think before people treated it like it was its own borough. It's nice to see people come here just to hang out.
HB: You had mentioned that you had many relatives that live in Harlem. How excited are they for you?
JJ: My family is super excited that I have this opportunity to be a part of history. Many of them remember The Cecil and Minton's Playhouse, so they are proud that I am helping to bring them back to Harlem. Cooking in a historic building, that means something to this community.
As they say "Harlem has your back, and makes us proud."