J. J. Johnson lives and cooks in full, glorious technicolor. In late 2017, his one-month stint as the buzzy Chefs Club‘s first long-term chef-in-residence was extended an extra two months, to meet demand of diners who wanted to vibe to ’90s hip-hop over forkfuls of a whole, cornmeal-crusted sea bass. Now, he’s branching out with InGrained Hospitality Concepts, a restaurant group focusing on diverse collaboration and global cuisine.
For a chef with a self-professed desire to “be the Jordan of the culinary world,” it seems like Johnson is hitting his stride. During his time as the former executive chef at multi-talented restaurateur Alexander Smalls’ iconic Harlem restaurants The Cecil and Minton’s, the focus was on the flavors of the Afro-Asian-American table. For the first time, Smalls and Johnson are collecting their dynamic recipes in a cookbook: Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day, co-written by Veronica Chambers.