Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson has been on the rise since helping to open The Cecil in 2013 as its first Chef de Cuisine. Shortly after, in fall 2014, he joined Minton’s, Harlem’s historic jazz supper club and sister restaurant to The Cecil.
Recently, he was named executive chef of both.
“I am so excited to continue my journey learning about and cooking Afro-Asian cuisine. Alexander introduced me to the concept a few years ago, and I am proud to have made it my own. I’m really looking forward to leading the kitchens at The Cecil and Minton’s… Alexander and I just keep bringing it!” Johnson shares with TNJ.com.
And he’s already using his style of American regional cooking to introduce new menus at Minton’s. Stand-outs on the new menu include Chef JJ’s re-invention of gumbo with his Tidewater Gumbo Plate, a Creole Braised Lamb Shank, and his Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs. According to Minton’s, the menu is “more approachable and lower-priced, with four sections to choose from: Smalls, Low Country, Bigs and Fixings.”
The news comes on the heels of Johnson’s 2014 nomination for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef Award, followed by his recent honor of receiving the ‘Best Chef’ award at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. He also won the Rocco DiSpirito Dinner competition and has cooked at some of NYC’s top restaurant’s including Jane Tribeca Grill.
“The JBF nod was amazing and opened up so many doors. It helped me gain respect in an industry where I’m trying to make a real stamp,” Johnson told TNJ.com.
Noted restaurateur Alexander Smalls, who helped open Minton’s and The Cecil along with N.Y. businessman Richard Parsons and has been a mentor for Johnson, is pleased about the young chef’s work thus far.
“The culinary conversation and discipline of The Cecil and Minton’s is a reflection of my life long commitment and appreciation of the food ways and cooking traditions of The African Diaspora. Creating the flavor profile and recipes that represent the shared expression Chef Joseph JJ Johnson and I subscribe too has been my greatest reward… Making him the Executive Chef of the work we so passionately love gives me the freedom to further the story and campaign of our beloved kitchen knowing the artful preparation of every dish will continue on…and in the best of hands. He is rightfully my heir and my choice to continue the journey…for which I am so proud,” Smalls told TNJ.com.
Diners will not only enjoy a new menu, but a new music program as well. Led by Ulysses Owens Jr., the Grammy Award-winning percussionist and the club’s new Artistic Music Curator, Owens will continue to honor the Minton’s legacy as the birthplace of bebop in the 1930’s, a playhouse that was on the cutting edge of jazz. His new weekly line-up will showcase both legendary and up-and-coming players in jazz and other genres:
Wednesdays – Minton’s Own: The Minton’s Players House Band and special guests
Thursdays – Young Lions Residency: The next generation of jazz greats
Fridays – Minton’s Night of Soul: Musicians with a soulful, Latin, and worldly flair
Saturdays – Premiere Artists: Critically acclaimed artists from around the world
Sundays – Jazz Brunch: The Minton’s Players House Band and special guests
Sundays – Soul Stirring: An evening of smooth and sultry R&B performers