JJ Johnson on Support for Black-Owned Businesses

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Why is it so important to support black-owned businesses, particularly right now? FieldTrip chef and owner JJ Johnson talks to Billy Shore about being a black business owner and what drives him to succeed. “Don’t say you care about black lives if you can’t walk into a black-owned business and look on the shelves and give it the same amount of money that you give a white-owned business,” says Johnson. There continue to be systemic barriers, as well. “When I was applying for my PPP money, I got declined three times. There are a lot of black-owned businesses that just weren’t able to get PPP money to stay alive,” Johnson explains about the Payment Protection Program within the CARES Act that has provided support for small businesses during the pandemic.

“I hire from the community. It gave this sense of hope that every time the lights would come on at Fieldtrip, it meant that someone could have a job, that we’re coming back and it’s going to be ok,” recounts Johnson about staying open throughout the pandemic by preparing food bowls for frontline hospital workers. “If we can make it in Harlem, we can make it anywhere in the world because the Harlem community will uplift you,” he says.

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JJ Johnson

JJ Johnson

Chef
JJ Johnson is a James Beard Award-winning chef best known for his barrier-breaking cuisine connecting the foodways of West Africa and Asia to the Americas. Recognized by Eater as one of the New Guard of Power in NYC Dining, Johnson’s brand of creating cultural connections through food is a hallmark of his hospitality group Ingrained Hospitality Concepts, LLC. The restaurant group opened FIELDTRIP, a quick-casual rice bowl shop located in Harlem that highlights rice traditions from around the world with globally-inspired flavors and techniques. The New York Times chose Fieldtrip as a Critic's Pick for the Hungry City Column. Johnson is also a chef on Buzzfeed’s Tasty platform, a Mastercard Ambassador and a television host on Just Eats with Chef JJ airing for its second season on TV One’s network Cleo TV. He is a Forbes 30 Under 30, Eater Young Gun and has been featured on NBC TODAY, GMA, Food and Wine and Esquire magazine. Johnson published his award-winning first cookbook in spring 2018, “Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day” (Flatiron Books). He serves on the James Beard Impact Programs Advisory Committee and sits on the junior board of Food Bank for New York City.
FIELDTRIP

FIELDTRIP

FIELDTRIP is a community-based dining experience that celebrates culture through the shared experience of rice. Their mantra, "Rice is Culture," was born out of Chef Johnson’s realization that rice connects us and can be found at the center of tables in almost every community. Their cuisine is influenced by global flavors and techniques used within various cultures. Using heirloom grains all the rice is freshly milled, unbleached and not enriched. Their rice bowls are paired with ethically sourced vegetables and proteins.