EYES IN Magazine Editor-in-Chief Vivian Van Dijk enjoyed meeting with Cecil and Minton's Chef de Cuisine Joseph "JJ" Johnson at a spectacular event, UPTOWN Uncorked at Metropolitan West, in New York City. It was sponsored by Lexus where Chef Johnson showcased his latest mouth-watering dishes.
The overall event, the series of which started in 2014, aims to cultivate an appreciation for wine and amazing food at a wildly successful food and wine festival. They had well over 300 guests in attendance tasting culinary treats from local New York Chefs, Don Bowie and JJ Johnson. Judging by the crowds surrounding each table, people seemed to agree that the food was top notch. The wine, brought in by Diageo's new wine division is the best of the best and sure to be a HUGE success. The Lexus vehicles on display ultimately speak for themselves. UPTOWN Uncorked will be headed to Chicago in early October and Miami in early December.
It was at his grandmother’s side that JJ Johnson’s culinary spark was lit. Hardworking and an obliging teacher, his grandmother brought Caribbean influences into the kitchen, instilling in him a passion for expressive flavors and for following the rhythm of the seasons.
From home hearth to classical training, Johnson made the move to the Culinary Institute of America, giving a technical backbone to a well laid foundation of food love. He went on to hone his skills in some of New York’s most esteemed kitchens: Centro Vinoteca, Jane, and Tribeca Grill among them. Constantly in search of new flavors, Johnson also spent time in Ghana, studying West African cuisine and cooking at Villa Monticello, Ghana’s Premier Luxury Boutique Hotel and Spa.
Now diving headfirst into eclecticism, he helms the kitchen at The Cecil and historic Minton’s jazz club next door, which he helped open under the auspices of Chef Alexander smalls. Johnson’s star is clearly on the rise: not only winner of Rocco DiSpirito’s Dinner Party competition (where he wowed the culinary elite with his twists on straightforward cooking), Johnson was on both the Forbes and Zagat “30 Under 30” lists, was named an Eater Young Gun, all in 2014. As if that weren’t enough, The Cecil was also named Esquire’s best restaurant of 2014. This year, his career unfolds as StarChefs has nameed him Rising Star for Community in 2015. Johnson continues to revel in transforming simple cuisine with bold flavors and unexpected ingredients.
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Images courtesy: Vivian Van Dijk and UPTOWN