A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Joseph “JJ” Johnson went on to hone his skills in some of New York’s most esteemed kitchens including Centro Vinoteca, Jane, and Tribeca Grill. In search of new flavors, Chef Johnson spent a month cooking in Ghana at the country's leading boutique hotel, Villa Monticello, studying West African cuisine and exploring the country's exotic markets.

In 2013, Chef Johnson helped open The Cecil with Richard Parsons and Alexander Smalls. Soon after, he joined the kitchen of its sister restaurant Minton’s, the revived jazz supper club located next door.

Chef Johnson was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, and recognized by Star Chefs with the Rising Star Community Chef Award (both in 2015). He was named on the "20 Under 40" list of extraordinary philanthropists by the Observer (2016). Chef Johnson was also named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Zagat’s 30 under 30 and an Eater Young Gun (all in 2014), as well as recognized as Chef of the Year by New York African Restaurant Week (2015).