Why He’s a Food Hero: Chef JJ Johnson’s restaurant, Fieldtrip, was at risk of closure when the pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020. His wife, Samiyyah Chapman, is a healthcare worker, and she inspired him to begin sending food to Harlem Hospital. He was able to provide these meals through donations from a “buy-a-bowl program” he promoted on Twitter. In the spring and summer, Johnson partnered Fieldtrip with organizations such as Harlem Grown and the Boys and Girls Club to feed Harlem residents while keeping his staff employed. The donation arm of Fieldtrip, called Fieldtrip Feed, has helped more than fifty thousand people since March 2020.
Background: Johnson opened Fieldtrip in 2019 after working as the head chef at The Cecil in Harlem. He also spent time learning cooking in Ghana, leading to his West African inspired cooking. Today, he is also a television host on Just Eats with Chef JJ on Cleo TV.
Work: Johnson’s restaurant is a fast-casual establishment that creates West African and Asian inspired rice bowls, focusing on the importance of rice in cooking and community all over the world. Fieldtrip has since opened two more locations, in Long Island City and Rockefeller Center.
Awards, Praise and Honors: Johnson was profiled by Food & Wine Magazine for his work supporting the community through the COVID-19 crisis. Before the crisis, Johnson won a James Beard award in 2019 for his cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, and was one of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center’s 40 Under 40 in 2018.
Resources and References:
- How JJ Johnson Beat 2020 (Food & Wine)
- Harlem Restaurant Teams Up With Bronx Organization And Local Senator To Feed The Community (Bronx Times)
- A Harlem-based Chef Is Bringing A Movement Of ‘Conscious Eating’ To The Inner City (Forbes)
- JJ Johnson: “I Might Have To Send You Off And Away” (Take Away Only podcast)
- Harlem Grown Cultivates Urban Farming During COVID-19 Crisis (Pix11)
- Restaurants Surviving, Helping By Sending Meals To Covid-19 Workers (CNBC)
- Fieldtrip Owner And Chef JJ Johnson Shares How His Wife Saved His Restaurant (Today)