Johnson began his career in the modern Mediterranean kitchen of Layla under Chef Frank Proto. At Layla, Johnson was introduced to and influenced by the fresh ingredients and cooking styles of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. After a stint at Layla, Johnson worked in the popular kitchen of Montrachet where, as he assisted the pastry chefs and plated amuses nightly, he learned, from Chef Chris Gesualdi, how a high volume, fine dining kitchen could be organized for maximum efficiency. While at Savoy, under Chef Peter Hoffman, Johnson was exposed to premium products in their natural state. This was the essence and focus of Hoffman’s cuisine; great ingredients prepared simply, allowing their natural flavors to shine.
Growing up in Paducah, Kentucky, Johnson decided to pursue a culinary career after spending time at his best friend’s family’s restaurant. He attended the French Culinary Institute in New York where he was determined to learn all he could from the famed staff which included modern culinary luminaries like Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner and Alain Sailhac. He paid for his own tuition, came in early and stayed late – always pressing his instructors for more information. From these legends, Johnson learned the techniques and traditions that have made French chefs leaders in dining for hundreds of years.