Getting to know Chef JJ

Last month, the hungrier half of FP (Allen) attended the C-CAP Benefit and had the opportunity to taste delicious food from some of the best chefs in NYC. One sample that caught Allen’s attention was the curry crusted cod with kimchi rice porridge prepared by Chef Joe “JJ” Johnson, Chef de Cuisine at both Minton’s and The Cecil in Harlem.

Curry crusted cod with kimchi rice porridge from The Cecil
Curry crusted cod with kimchi rice porridge from The Cecil

We reached out to Chef JJ to learn more about him and have both restaurants on top of our list of places to eat in the near future!

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

JJ: I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother. I liked being in there with her because she used to make the kitchen fun with music and dancing and singing. Looking back on it now, she really was cooking all this great food that I hated, as a kid, but now I can’t stop eating as an adult.

Chef Joseph "JJ" Johnson
Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson

FP: Grandmas always know best!

What is the one item in the kitchen you can’t live without? 

JJ: A wooden spoon. It’s one of those things that universal, in every kitchen.

FP: Now that we think about it, our wooden spoon always comes in handy.

Name three people you would like to cook in the same kitchen with and why.

JJ: Chef Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef season 12. I love her energy and her food. She’s super creative.

Chef Chris Coombs: Chris inspires me, he’s a restaurant owner before 30 years old. We actually went to The Culinary Institute of America together and he is so talented.

Chef Kevin Sbraga: We connected when I was in Philly for Forbes 30 Under 30 and I ate at his restaurant. It was the best food that I’ve eaten all year.

FP: What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself?

JJ: I love a good roasted ribeye so I make those at home. I use my cast iron skillet that I have had with me ever since I moved to NYC.

FP: Can’t go wrong with a ribeye!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NYC.

JJ: Each time I go out to eat, I try to go to a new place. I ask my friends where I should go. Recently I went to the Modern. I like to hang out at Charliebird. I also have a running list of places I want to try next like The Musket Room and Cosme.

FP: Thanks for the suggestions. Our list keeps growing for sure!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

JJ: Geez, I can’t say.. this is a great blog LoL

FP: We certainly have a bias, but we like our blog also lol

What are some of your non-cooking/food related interests and hobbies?

JJ: Coaching basketball. I help my dad coach his basketball team, Mountain B-Ball.

FP: When we’re not working and eating, we like to catch our share of basketball games!

If you could jump on an airplane tomorrow, which country/city/region would you visit just for its food?

JJ: I’d go to Morocco and Senegal. I love to travel and I get a lot of inspiration for my menu’s when I travel.

FP: It was great getting to know you. Thank you for your time! We’ll make sure to stop by either Minton’s or The Cecil next time we’re in Harlem!

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