Now that the the list of Eater Young Guns semi-finalists has been released, it's time to get to know these rising stars. Check this space for regular introductions to each of the 50 semi-finalists and tune in on June 24 to find the list of winners.
Udon noodles with braised goat and sweet peas in a West African peanut sauce and Afro-Asian-American oxtail dumplings with green apple curry sauce and taro root are anything but typical plates. And the success of such unsung flavor pairings found at Harlem's The Cecil are the handiwork of 29-year-old chef de cuisine Joseph "JJ" Johnson. Inspired by his grandmother's Caribbean cooking, Johnson pursued a career in food, cooking through Tribeca Grill, Jane, and the now shuttered Centro Vinoteca, all in Manhattan.
But, it wasn't until Johnson won an episode of Bravo's Rocco's Dinner Party that he caught the eye of restaurateur Alexander Smalls. At the time, Smalls was considering an Afro-Asian restaurant, and he eventually invited Johnson to cook American cuisine in Ghana and to learn the flavors of the region. The trip proved powerful enough that when Johnson returned to the US, he started researching the Chinese and Vietnamese influence on Western Africa, and that's how The Cecil's bill of fare came to be. "We developed about 30 menus before we got to our first one," says Johnson. Above, the Forbes "30 Under 30" recognized chef shares 10 surprising facts about himself.
Learn 10 more fun facts about Johnson above.
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