Monday, September 23, 2013

☞ MEET: Chef Joseph Johnson

The new Cecil supper club has its big opening today in Harlem and notably has a rising star in the kitchen that Harlem Bespoke happened to have interviewed in 2011.  Chef Joseph Johnson had just won a competition on a Bravo TV show hosted by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito which also had Marcus Samuelsson on the panel as one of the guest judges.  Fast forward a couple of years later and Chef Johnson has returned uptown to be included in a dynamic team that will part of Harlem's ever evolving dining scene.  See below for the full Harlem Bespoke interview from 2011 when we first talked to the young chef:

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 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.

For more on Joseph Johnson, check out the chef's official website

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