If you watch Food Network’s Chopped or Netflix’s Street Food, then you know JJ Johnson. If you don’t, then you’ll want to get to know him.
Renowned for his innovative approach to African Caribbean cuisine, the self-taught home cook learned his craft from cookbooks and impressed Gordon Ramsay to win the title. His work has also earned him numerous accolades, including the James Beard Foundation Book Award and a two-time spot on the Nation’s Restaurant News Power List, not to mention, a highly anticipated new cookbook, The Simple Art of Rice: Recipes from Around the World for the Heart of Your Table.
With a resume like that, it’s no surprise that he’s making lots of noise on the culinary scene. Even better, he’s sprinkling his unique flare across the globe, and the first stop — Nassau, Bahamas. In September, he debuted Table Takeovers presented by Nassau Paradise Island Wine & Food Festival, as a teaser of the innovative culinary programming Atlantis brings to the island every March, where he’ll also be showcasing his talents.
Table Takeovers is only a preview of what’s to come, where he introduced a Caribbean brasserie concept at Bimini Road, the restaurant that celebrates Bahamian cuisine’s vibrant flavors in Atlantis’ Marina Village. Limited-edition menu items showcased his African Caribbean roots with dishes such as oxtail dumplings, lemon pepper prawns, amarillo broth snapper & tuna ceviche tostada with avocado.
Though the Bahamian islands are inhabited by less than half a million people, there’s still a rich culinary culture, which Johnson was able to experience firsthand. “I didn’t realize that benny seeds were heavily produced in the Bahamas. When I learned that benny seeds were in candy and a lot of different recipes here, I felt an instant connection to the Bahamas as this was an ingredient I am so familiar with but had no idea it was produced in the Bahamas. It was an ah-ha moment.”
Johnson’s rise has been anything but typical. The past five years have been a blur of career accomplishments, filled with restaurant openings and accolades for the 39-year-old with the “gourmet touch.” He is the chef-cofounder of Ingrained Hospitality Concepts and former executive chef of award winning Harlem restaurants The Cecil and Minton’s. It’s safe to say, Johnson is a hard-working guy who doesn’t waste much time.
But when Atlantis Paradise Island called, he answered.
Nassau Paradise Island Wine & Food Festival, presented by the iconic Bahamian resort, will take place from March 13 – March 17, 2024. The five-day festival hosted at the resort will showcase Johnson, along with world-renowned top chefs, master sommeliers, mixologists, and notable TV personalities including: Robert Irvine, Nobu Matsuhisa and Martha Stewart, in addition to welcoming back beloved, acclaimed master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim and culinary talents Duff Goldman, Alon Shaya, Michael White and Andrew Zimmern, who participated in the inaugural festival last year. Back by popular demand, Grammy Award-winning and Golden Globe-nominated rapper Wyclef Jean will also return to paradise for a late-night performance at the festival’s signature Jerk Jam, all set to the backdrop of Atlantis’ renowned paradise location, with five miles of white sand beaches and crystal blue waters.
With this gathering of some of the biggest names in food, it takes a lot to stand out, and Johnson does just that.
His motto? “Don’t live life like you coulda, shoulda, woulda.”