Monthly Industry Insights

Hear from industry leaders their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.

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June's Featured Interview: Joseph Johnson, Charcoal Venice

Chef Johnson will be presenting a culinary demonstration at the upcoming Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo in August. 

What is the newest trend you see emerging?  
I see that a lot of people are now cooking with charcoal, going back to a rustic, primitive style of cooking.  

What’s the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator?  
Cured egg yolks hanging in the walk-in. 

If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I’d like to go to Faviken because Chef Magnus Nilsson uses very primitive techniques such as preserving and harvesting ingredients directly from the land.  I admire how he uses age old techniques and utilizes products to their full advantage.

Is there one comfort food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
Gummy bears

Who was your mentor in the industry?
Chef Josiah Citrin, because he has given me a new outlook on the way I think about food and create recipes.  Specifically, he has helped me develop more knowledge about sourcing ingredients when they are in season and using them to their full potential.

What was your favorite class in culinary school?
I particularly enjoyed a class where we worked in the restaurant that was attached to the school.  I got to apply the skills I learned in class into the real world.  I remember I worked the grill station right at the beginning. 



More about Joseph Johnson: 

Chef de Cuisine Joseph Johnson admits he’s always loved cooking with fire, which comes in quite handy for his role at Charcoal Venice, the new neighborhood restaurant from Mélisse Chef/Owner Josiah Citrin, that’s centered around live-fire cuisine. This opportunity not only allows him to helm the kitchen, but also to apply the exacting standards he learned from his mentor in a more casual, down-to-earth setting. Noting he feels a strong emotional connection to his craft, Johnson says of his personal culinary philosophy, “I like to let the quality of the raw ingredients speak for themselves without too much manipulation. Although I may add complementary flavors to enhance the ingredient, I want guests to taste the purity of these fresh farmers’ market items.” For presentation, Johnson considers functionality as well as aesthetics, plating sauces and accoutrements in places where they are more likely to complement one another in a single bite.

Johnson has had a passion for cooking since he was a kid, learning the basics from his Southern grandmother. “I never realized it at the time, but I remember her teaching me how to scramble eggs when I was 12, and her technique was classic French.” Johnson began his professional career at the age of 16, washing dishes at a hotel restaurant near his hometown of Petersburg, VA. Bored with that task, the teenager persuaded the chefs and line cooks to let him do more in the kitchen, and Johnson eventually worked his way up to executive chef at the hotel before he even turned 19. He continued to oversee the kitchen there until he was 22, but yearned to expand his culinary horizons.

After a vacation in Los Angeles, Johnson decided to move to Southern California. Anxious to refine his cooking skills, he enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu-affiliated California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, where he graduated in 2012. During culinary school, Johnson worked at the Pasadena Hilton and served an externship at Savory in Malibu under James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Shoemaker.

When Savory closed, Shoemaker recommended that his young protégé consider Mélisse in nearby Santa Monica. After staging one night at the restaurant, Johnson proved his value and was hired as a garde manger cook at Citrin’s bastion of modern French cuisine. Learning as much as he could from Citrin, and volunteering for every special event, Johnson moved up the ranks rapidly at the two Michelin-star restaurant, ascending to the position of sous chef in just over a year. At Mélisse, Johnson learned from Citrin never to be satisfied with an item on the menu, even if it was a staple. “Chef Josiah taught me to constantly innovate, seeking perfection in every dish,” he says.

When he’s not in the kitchen, the young chef enjoys archery, martial arts, discovering new foods in Southern California, and searching for the kind of soulful Southern cooking his grandmother used to him back home. He also co-founded his own apron line, Cork District, with friend Gary Nguyen, which offers their handcrafted design on multifaceted and modern aprons suited for everyday kitchen needs—both at home and in the professional arena. A customized line of his aprons will be worn the culinary staff and servers at Charcoal..  



June Insights - David Adir, The Carving Board
May Insights - Chef Ricky Estrellado, Nobu New York
April Insights - Chef Manjit Manohar, The Pierre Hotel
March Insights - Chef Justine MacNeil, Del Posto
February Insights - Chef Stephen Yen, Paige Hospitality Group
January Insights - Chef Amanda Martin, Leoness Cellars
November Insights - Michelle Noble, Le Cordon Bleu
October Insights - James McGuinness, Keiser University
September Insights - Norman Van Aken, NORMAN'S
August Insights - Richard Pink, Pink's Hot Dogs
July Insights - Keith Breedlove, Culinerdy Cruzer
June Chef Insights - Rob Valencia, Great Performances
May Chef Insights - Marc Murphy, Benchmarc Restaurants
April Chef Insights - Megan Johnson, Casellula
March Chef Insights - Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, TV Personality

February Chef Insights - Barret Beyer, Hell's Kitchen
January Chef Insights - Anton Testino, Mulberry Street Cafe
November Chef Insights - David Binkle, Los Angeles Unified School District
October Chef Insights - Alan Ogard, Lexington Hotel
September Chef Insights - Barbie Marshall, The Farming Chef
August Chef Insights - Cal DeMercurio, Corporate Executive Chef, Black Bear Diner
July Chef Insights - Johannes Bernau, Executive Chef, Who Song & Larry's
June Chef Insights - Ryan Vargas, Chef de Cuisine at Emeril's Tchoup Chop