Interview with Brad Johnson

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Photo by Courtney Crutcher

Name & Age:

Bradley Allyn Johnson, 33

Occupation/Years in the field:

Chef/15 years

Executive Chef at Creekside West

Personal:

Single, no kids

Hometown/Years in Yakima:

The Dalles, OR and Stevenson, WA … I consider the Columbia River Gorge my home.  I have only lived in Yakima for about seven years; I love the sunshine and long summer days.

Did you cook growing up?

Yes, I was always interested in what was going on in the kitchen. I was once badly burned by a pressure cooker as a child, because I had a chair next to the stove so I could watch my mom cook.

What is your first food memory?

Going to stay with my grandparents in the summer, who lived in Depoe Bay, OR…stopping at fresh produce stands throughout the Willamette Valley to pick up fresh-from-the-farm produce that my grandmother would prepare during my vacation…picking wild blackberries with my grandfather.

Where were you trained and how difficult was your training?

I did not go to culinary school and actually have no formal training in the culinary business.  I have worked my way up the old-fashioned way — with hard work and dedication to my craft. I have had the opportunity to work under some great chefs and sous chefs, who were willing to take the time to share their knowledge of the restaurant business with me, which I in turn combined with my experience to reach the point I’m at now.

What were your biggest inspirations for your career?

My grandmother — she was an amazing cook and loved to go out to enjoy a great meal … And David (Doc) Holliday, who was a great influence on me as a young man just starting out in this business.

Describe your culinary style/philosophy:

Still trying to figure this one out …. Sometimes simple, sometimes elegant. I have worked in everything from fine dining to cooking hot dogs, but I love the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. From fresh seafood to wild mushrooms to grass feed lamb, farmers markets are the way to shop.

Do you have any cooking tips for the novice?

Go the Health Department and get a Food Handlers card. It requires watching a short video and then taking a test that just might save your life. I don’t how many times I’ve seen people in their homes mishandling food with cross contamination and improper storage.

What is Creekside West’s signature or most popular dish?

The fried Oyster mushrooms and the hazelnut chicken breast with oven dried tomatoes.

Where do you see you and your restaurant in five years?

As we are so new, five years seems so far away, but I could see an expansion with a banquet facility in the future.

What do you enjoy most about your work?  Greatest stressors?

The camaraderie that develops between a kitchen crew—in most cases you spend more time with them then your own family. And getting to try so many different types of food and wine and actually getting paid for it.  Stress? Long hours and meeting people’s demands.

Who are your role models?

My mom who battles with Multiple Sclerosis every day.

Would you choose the same career pathway if you had it to do over again?

Probably not … I love to cook and have always had a passion for food, but if someone had told me that I would always have to work weekends, holidays, and sacrifice so much of my own personal time for my career, I might have left the door open to other options.

If you could retire tomorrow – what would you do?

Start a family. The restaurant business is tough on relationships and being a dedicated parent.

What do you consider your greatest success so far?

Working my way up to chef without any formal training.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Keep it simple, concentrate on the flavors — not the ingredients.

If you could boil down to one sentence your life philosophy, what would it be?

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. -Henry David Thoreau

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