This edition of Who Makes Millersville Special features Chef John Johnson, who has been at Millersville for six years.
Q: Why did you choose to work at Millersville?
A: It was an opportunity that was family friendly.
Q: Where did you grow up/where do you live now?
A: I have lived my entire life in Strasburg.
Q: What made you interested in the culinary arts? What age did you become interested?
A: I became interested at a very young age, 6 or 7. My great-grandmother Johnson kept me as my parents worked. She made all meals from scratch by hand, never with a recipe, just by eye. I loved to help her in the kitchen.
Q: What is your favorite part about being chef manager for the North Side Bistro at Millersville?
A: The people I work with and the students and staff we make food for. We have great interaction. It is nice to get up and feel good about going to work each day.
Q: Where did you work previously?
A: After attending college, I worked several jobs, gaining valuable experience from fine dining to buffet restaurants. For 15 years before Millersville University I was the head chef at Willow Valley Manor North Retirement Communities.
Q: This summer you shared your recipe for Baja Citrus Pork with the Intell/New Era. Aside from the Baja Citrus Pork, what is your favorite dish to prepare?
A: My family and I love to grill; we grill every chance we get. My son and I like to create marinades that we put on all varieties of meats and vegetables and grill.
Q: What is your best memory from attending Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts?
A: The friends that I made and still keep in touch with today. I had the opportunity to test into the advanced standing program. This is a program where you take a three-hour written test and a five-hour practicum test; if you score high enough, you are invited. You attend Johnson & Wales as a freshman in the summer when all other students are at home. When they return, you are placed as a sophomore and continue on. You basically complete your freshman year in 10 weeks as opposed to a full semester.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I have a beautiful wife Karen and an incredible son Bryce, who is nine. My wife Karen teaches school-age childcare at the local school. She has the patience of a saint to put up with myself and Bryce. Bryce likes tractors, collecting Pez and cooking with dad.
Q: Are you the main cook at home? Does your wife like to cook as well?
A: My wife and I met in the cooking industry. We both enjoy cooking at home.
Q: What are a few of your favorite dishes to prepare at home?
A: T-bone steak with thick cut onions. Grilled chicken with special marinades created with my son.
Q: Does a passion for the culinary arts run in your family?
A: Yes, both sides of the family like to be in the kitchen, but now they like to come to our house on holidays to see what I make. I never make traditional holiday fare. I like to mix it up so you don’t always eat the same things.
Q: What do you do outside of work?
A: I like to mow, swim and work on my ‘57 Chevy. Travel with the family to the beach and mountains.
Q: What is an interesting fact about yourself that most people do not know?
A: I am really into Marilyn Monroe; I collect any and everything Marilyn.
Q: What are three things you can’t live without?
A: My family, my friends and a clean car. I can’t sleep if the cars are dirty.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be? Why?
A: Diligent. It is a never-ending challenge to keep up with the evolving needs of the clientele in the university setting. Here at the Bistro we are always updating menus and paring them with activities like our upcoming open mic nights.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
A: Getting my wife to marry me and have a child with me [kidding]; successfully completing my Cordon Bleu in culinary school.
Q: If you could travel to any place in the world, where would it be and why?
A: Monaco. It is beautiful, warm, small and quiet. I would like to go in May to see the F1 Grand Prix.
Q: Do you have a life philosophy?
A: I do not have a life philosophy. I like to have fun. Work hard and play hard. I like to meet new people and learn about them.