Monday, January 10, 2011

Chef Wayne Johnson: The Journeyman

Before I met Chef Johnson I felt intimidated. Having read his bio I thought so traveled and serious a chef wouldn’t be relatable to my decade of membership in this work, but as I approached and I got through my first question it was clear that while Chef Wayne takes this work very seriously, he is also a very kind and grounded person who just loves and respects food and wants to share that passion in any way possible.

Chef Wayne Johnson is a 30 year culinary veteran with connections all over the world. Born in Kentucky as the son of a military family he acquired a love for travel and an expanded palate along the way. His career began after working his way through an accounting degree from the University of Colorado. Post grad he moved to Vail, Co. and realized that his true calling was in the kitchen, so he abandoned his accounting future and joined Marriott to begin the road he mapped out to becoming the executive chef of his own property.

I was struck by the mental process Chef Wayne adopted with his career. So often there is this picture of the chef as this wild, cigarette smoking, bohemian with no plan except to cook and party, and while that image is one that is definitely perpetuated by some, Chef Wayne, even in his early years, had specific and measured goals in mind for his career. He talked with me at length about the virtues of a blueprint. He talked about how as you move along with a career goal life invariably happens, but that the map helps you to adjust and still move efficiently toward your goal. Even now, after almost 30 years of work, Chef Wayne has plenty of new goals for his career that life and experience has taught him how to navigate toward.

One of the most profound statements he made was about how he measures success. He said” I don’t measure my career by the position I hold, but by how many chefs I can see leave my kitchen and become sous chefs, executive chefs, etc…That’s the goal, to produce greatness from my kitchens”. How brilliant is that? How cool is it for a man with so much knowledge and talent to be so connected and invested in the culinary lives of others. Chef Wayne is what I consider the thinking man’s chef with his culinary style a collection of worldwide experiences, personal study, and tireless work. He brings a global palate and the principals of community, so central to black culture, to his life and work in a way that makes it easy to understand why he joined Erika in the Culinary Wonders journey. It also explains why he’s so committed to the black chefs in his own community through a project called ‘Food as Art’ he hosts in Seattle, WA. that showcases the work of local black chefs.

Chef Wayne is hardly slowing down at this point in his career and his story is one that every student should consider as they make the journey through culinary school. This is a career, and while there will be many experiences along the way that may be unexpected and challenging a clear blueprint of where you’d like to end up will always keep you headed in the right direction. Chef Wayne Johnson is simply a genius and is someone that has so much good knowledge to share so to learn more about what he’s doing and about his career follow these links.

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