New Orleans–raised private chef and caterer Airis The Chef Johnson, 38, majored in marketing in college hoping to one day run a Fortune 500 company. However, when her roommates couldn’t stop raving about her meals—her smothered pork chops and green beans with potatoes, for example—she knew she had found her true calling. Combining her signature spice blends with culinary training quickly helped Johnson make a name for herself when she relocated to New York City after graduation. When her list of clients grew, and her calendar filled, Johnson expanded to leave her mark on more meals: She started her ATC spice line with four signature blends right from her home kitchen in Brooklyn. “Every spice my customers get comes from me—I’m making them and packaging them,” Johnson says. “You can use my spices on absolutely everything and anything edible.” The Chillen N’ Grilling blend of nine herbs and spices is her personal favorite and best seller. The secret to producing lasting flavor isn’t about the spice; it’s about how much of it you use, according to Johnson. “When you’re cooking large pieces of meat, like a pot roast, you always want to overseason. When you think you’ve put enough, you haven’t,” she says. The goal is to cover every bit of the meat’s surface with seasoning so it can penetrate every bite.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of ESSENCE Magazine.