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Keeping It Fresh – ‘Ville Names New Chef

Millersville Names New Executive Chef

John Johnson graduated from Johnson & Wales University, where he received his Cordon Bleu Medallion. Still, early on, he learned from his grandmother that “the bigger the mess, the better the food.” Johnson has been with Millersville for 15 years and was recently named Executive Chef. We sat down with Johnson to talk about summer dishes and plans for this fall at the ‘Ville.

Where did you get your start with cooking?
My grandmother. She cooked everything from scratch, and she would always let me help. She always told me the bigger the mess, the better the food. Everyone in our family loved to cook; however, I think they liked to eat just as much.

What’s a go-to recipe for summer?
My family and I really like seafood, but it needs to be fresh. One of my favorites is a seared sea scallop over saffron rice, finished with mango, cilantro and red onion relish. Fresh vegetables from our area are also a favorite.

Any favorite rhubarb recipes?
My grandparents grew fresh rhubarb, so I have had a lot of dishes with it. One I particularly like is a rhubarb compote mixed with butter. Keep it in the fridge and add it to that thick-cut steak off the grill. You’ll love it!

You use a lot of locally grown produce. Any tips?
Adding fresh, out-of-the-garden ingredients will make your meal stand out from the normal. One excellent idea is adding braised (fresh) buttered green cabbage to a bone-in braised chicken leg (don’t knock it till you try it).

Executive Chef, John Johnson, cooking on campus.

You were hired at Millersville as the Sous Chef/Catering Chef, then became the Chef Manager, before moving into your current position as Executive Chef. Tell us what that job entails.
An Executive Chef is many things to an organization. No longer are the days of just making a great menu and running your kitchen. I have a great opportunity to work in a well-rounded program here at Millersville. Along with the usual tasks of scheduling, developing menus, cooking and training staff, I work to meet the daily diverse and cultural needs of our students. I meet with parents and students to help with eating challenges due to dietary and allergy-based needs.

What are your plans for ‘Ville Dining for the fall?
I am planning a more interactive dining experience where we prepare more of our items in front of the students. This will give our students more decisions on what they want to eat instead of them having to eat what we already made. It will also provide them with fresher items. I plan to have a more allergy-friendly dining hall, too. And we’ll be adding a burrito/enchilada station, a carving station and an all-inclusive grill station. We are also working on a new menu system that will allow students to access dining food information through an app on their phones. They can find menus, nutritional information etc., at their fingertips.

Do you cook for your family?
Yes – I do love to cook for the family. I met my wife in the business. We always host Christmas at our house. The entire family loves to come just to see what I will be preparing. Everyone tries to find out what I will be making, but I keep it under wraps till they arrive. One year I prepared a smoked eel, and I made fried crocodile last year.

Tell us about your family.
I have a great wife, Karen; a son, Bryce, and a St. Bernard, Macey (daddy’s little girl). We live in Strasburg. I am a huge, huge Marilyn Monroe fan. I have a love for old cars, and I own a 57 Chevy Belair.

Since it’s summer, your thoughts on ice cream?
I love soft ice cream; my family likes dipped ice cream, and we have two places we get it. In the evenings that I cook at home, I like to have a lovely sorbet to finish a grilled meal.


2 replies on “Keeping It Fresh – ‘Ville Names New Chef”

Congrats!!! I am surprised Chef didn’t change his coat multiple times for the photos like he does during Iron Chef competitions at MU 🙂 Chef Johnson is beyond awesome, great for MU!

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