Chef JJ Spicing Things Up on Season 2 Cleo TV “Just Eats With JJ.”
Chef JJ believes in cultural authenticity. As a matter of fact, this season of JUST EATS WITH Chef JJ, airing at 12 P.M. ET/11C on CLEO TV, will speak to that. Chef JJ and producers kept audiences in mind when they selected guest to visit the on-screen kitchen for easy restaurant style recipes that viewers can prepare at home.
Chef JJ says that cooking is part of his DNA. He’s enriched with that virtuoso. His knack to blend robust flavors, while steaming, basting, frying or stewing, that’s something he picked up from his ancestors, and that’s the reason his dishes are so thrilling. He’s known around the globe for his old-school mannerisms where he carries quaint conversation while cooking amazing cuisines. He‘s catered for luminaries like Quest Love, Jennifer Hudson, Desiigner, Draya, Nicole Murphy, Step and Ayesha Curry. He recenlty opened Field Trip, a fine dining restaurant in Harlem.
On the latest episode, “Chef JJ kicks things off with a "The Refresher," a deliciously-easy blackberry smash cocktail for his guests R & B Singer, Mumu Fresh and Social Activist, David Dennis. Then, Chef JJ cooks up a delicious Seared Salmon and Stir Fry Udon Noodles. At-home fast food doesn't get any better than this!
JUST EATS WITH CHEF JJ is produced by Powerhouse Productions, with Rochelle Brown and Sonia Armstead serving as Executive Producers. Jason Ryan is the Executive Producer in Charge of Production for TV One; Donyell McCullough is Senior Director of Talent & Casting; and Brigitte.”
Tell me about Just Eats With Chef JJ
Just Eats is amazing. It’s one of the best cooking shows that’s out right now. You get to see amazing food with amazing people. You get to hear amazing conversations with inspiration, in a show that truly has black Americans on it, talking about the biggest and brightest things happening in the world and it’s happening around some pots and pans.
Do you have special culinary tips for busy millennial that want tasty and healthy meals.
You know, some things are really just simple. The thing that I tell people when they want to cook at home is that they can use one day as their prep day and the next day as a cooking day. Don’t try to cook everything in one day. Maybe, you want to marinate that chicken, so marinate that chicken on a Monday. Cut up your onions for your salad or your sautéed vegetables—everything is ready to go. Then on Tuesday, you throw everything in the oven and cast iron pan, you sauté your vegetables and it‘s done in ten minutes. Just break up your prep time and cook time and you’ll really start loving to cook.
This is a weird question and it’s dealing with the epidemic of the coronavirus—What are the best meal preps to fight against it. What are the dishes that fight against things like this?
You know, it’ interesting; so at field trip, my restaurant, we have wok vegetables. Our wok vegeteables are collard greens, brussel sprouts, and butternut squash. For us, on the black diet, collard greens are very important. On the level of greens, it has the highest level of vitamin C. When you add collard greens to your diet, don’t cook them the way that your grandma cooked them or your auntie cooked them. Cook them raw—pick up my cookbook and make a raw collard green salad or come by Field Trip, or sauté some collard greens like you do spinach with a little bit of onions and garlic, and it’ll be super tasty. You’ll love it and it will give you the vitamin C. You won’t need to worry about popping that vitamin in the morning that you keep forgetting to take or you can’t swallow and you’re implementing collard greens slightly into your diet.
That’s interesting that you said that because that brings me to this veganism that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon [for]. Do you think that [vegan food] is a good fighter for it [coronavirus] as well, just vegan?
Right now, I think veganism is great. Let me take a step back, a lot of people forget that in the African American diet or the black diet, legumes, beans and vegetables are actually part of our diet, so veganism and vegetarianism was the way of our ancestors. We were eating vegetables and nuts [that] were always in our diet. We let the media tell us that we were fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, smothered pork chop, type of dieting people when we were never [ever].
“I think the coronavirus is something that is really going to make us think about how we react to life, what we consume, and how we can stay really healthy.”
There are few African American chefs hosting cooking shows, can you speak to the importance to having diverse representation when it comes to introducing different cultural cuisines?
Well, you gotta have people on TV that are introducing food that look like the food your’e introducing it to, right? New Soul Kitchen, on Cleo, is great. Gernard is showing you what southern food in his lens looks like. I’ve seen some of his food from his new season, maybe I’m not supposed to say that, but it looks amazing. When you’re watching Marcus Hamilton on PBS, and he’s going into cultural neighborhoods, he’s talking about the food. Nobody else could do that if they didn’t look like what Marcus looks like, or was an immigrant like Marcus; so those things are really big when you are on television and you’re trying to be authentic or conscious, or getting out this message that people need to hear. That’s what’s really great about Just Eats, it’s that people feel comfortable sitting next to me because I look like them.
‘We are able to have real conversation with real people, that somebody who might not look like me, [another race] would never be able to get out of their guest that I’m able to get out of my guest [content and relatability]’
How did you position yourself to do what you’re doing, to be an influence to the guest that you have?
I’m not really sure. I’m just really true to myself. I’m thankful with powerhouse productions and the production companies of women black, they get it. Having TV One, which speaks to the culture all the time, and all their programming.
What has been some of your special highlights.
I think everybody that’s on the show is always trying to find love. I don’t know why they are coming to me for love [chuckle]. I would think that one of my greatest conversations on the show was with Shaun King and his wife. We all know Shaun King to be this guy that’s exposing people, and sticking up for us [blacks] and our neighborhoods across America. Getting into this lighthearted conversation, to know his struggles, to know what he went through, and how they lived in a one bedroom with three kids-- and who he is now, who he’s supporting as president and the reason he is supporting that person as a president, is all really good stuff [content]. It’s probably one of my [favorite] highlights.
How has your own culture and ethnic background influenced your cooking and the type of meals that you prepare for celebrity guest and audiences?
I’m just sharing where I’ve been and who I am. I’m blessed to cook the food that my DNA is part of, and express that to the world, and feel comfortable doing. There’s not a lot of people that wake up every day and feel comfortable in their own skin—they wish they were someone else. They wish that they could do something different. I’m very fortunate that my parents raised me to believe in myself, and my grandmother Iris, injected DNA in me. I’m able to carry that throughout my life. The ultimate goal is to keep influencing people to be able to be themselves and represent their culture.
Share your experiences working with the creative team and CLEO TV on this project.
Working with them is great. They hear my big mouth all the time. It’s been really seamless. We talk things through, and at the end of the day, we always meet in the middle, and we always know what we’re trying to project onto the screen, so from a creative [aspect] like that where the guest is great, and they are working with my culinary team, and the powerhouse production team on the back end. On culinary, its really good, too, because having someone like Rochelle Brown whose been in the culinary world for years [on the Food Network], really knows what food TV is supposed to look like, and having someone like that as part of the team, and a powerhouse, I think she’s truly the secret weapon in all of this.
In closing, Chef JJ is reminding folks, “Everybody, come eat at Field Trip Harlem— They are there to service the black communities. Don’t forget to tune-in to Just Eats With Chef JJ, great conversations, and fantastic dishes with the viewers in mind.