Josh Johnson, Award-Winning Pastry Chef
Chef Josh Johnson has been at the ovens most of his life. Starting at age 13 in his uncle's pastry shop, he has been training with world-renowned chefs ever since. Positions at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago, Ambrosia, Everest, and owning his own shop Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts, have taught him that the sky is the limit for those with ambition and perseverance. "I've been very fortunate in my career to have worked with some amazing people, each one has taught me so much and has had an impact on what I do and how I approach the industry." Of all the talented chefs he's had the pleasure to work with throughout the years, his parents, he says, had the most impact on his career. "I was taught that there is no success in walking away and how patience can be used to overcome most problems you face." Chef Johnson's accomplishment this year, as a member of the US Pastry Team at the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, was winning the bronze medal with his teammates. "This was the most incredible experience that I've had in the pastry industry so far" he says. "There was so much pain, schlepping, laughter and history surrounding it that it will be very hard to top. I was surrounded by some of the most talented pastry chefs in the world and the committee members judging us were the trailblazing chefs in this industry." Chef Johnson also taught at the distinguished French Pastry School in Chicago. Teaching was an eye opening and gratifying experience for him. "The best part about teaching was when you see the light bulb turn on in the head of the students" he says. "And, an even better feeling is when you hear one student helping another student using the same words and techniques that you just showed them."
Chef Johnson encourages young pastry chefs to take risks and never make excuses. "Pick a job and pursue it until you get it, start a project and follow through, ask questions when you need to and clean up your mess and any mess near you. Don't be late and respect everyone like they are your best friend." Good advice for anyone starting out in a job. Nowadays, Chef Johnson is the head pastry chef at The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, and is enjoying the trend toward using fresh and local ingredients. He also finds great value in using quality ingredients. He believes the quality of ingredients is everything, not only for your health but for the taste of whatever it is you're making. That's why he uses Nielsen-Massey's products in his recipes. "I was first introduced to Nielsen-Massey at the Ritz years ago while tasting a vanilla mousse that we added to the menu, I still use that mousse today" he says. "My favorite Nielsen-Massey products are their beans, but if I had to pick one I would say the Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste."
To get the full vanilla flavor, add vanilla at the end of the cooking process whenever possible so the flavor does not dissipate during cooking. This doesn't work with baked goods of course, but when making mousse, ice cream bases or icings, add vanilla at the very end when it's cooling down and give it a few hours to mature and take on the full flavor."