Rising Star: Chef Dwight Johnson
People tend to glorify finished products, and not take the time to appreciate the struggle it takes to become the best. There are many young people striving to create a name for themselves in a world filled with obstacles. Dwight Johnson, 21, was as confused about his path as many young persons are. However, he decided to develop a career in something he loved cooking.
The graduate of Boys' Town Vocational Centre in Kingston was inspired to go into cooking while taking a stroll through his alma mater, Vauxhall High School. "The aroma just hit me, and from then, I started taking an interest in cooking. I started watching this show called Cake Boss. I started loving pastry at first, and then, ventured off into the different categories of food," said Johnson.
"When I applied to Boys' Town HEART, I did not receive a reply. This was very discouraging, and I had no idea what to do next," he said. However, destiny came into to play when he ran into an administrator of the institution while catering at an event. "I told the person about my situation. After seeing how well I was performing at the event, she made a few calls and by the next day, I was enrolled," said Johnson.
During his time at the institution, Johnson received training from a few of Jamaica's well-known chefs. "My first professional experience was with Brian Lumley, and I am so grateful for that experience at 689 (Lumley's restaurant). I started off as a server and then progressed into the kitchen," said Johnson.
Working there gave him a new perspective on what it takes to be a chef and allowed him to fine-tune his skills. "The persons there were like family to me and were very encouraging," he said. Johnson was working two jobs in order to make ends meet while undergoing training. "They understood, and were very flexible with me when it came to my shifts. They were really looking out for me, and I really respect that," said Johnson. His most memorable work experience was at a large event where he worked alongside Lumley. "Brian Lumley himself showed me how to make spring rolls, and I had to create over 100 spring rolls in less than 30 minutes for a live show. I was shocked, and it really pushed me to the limit. I got to do 150 in the time, and really, surprised myself. He is a very good mentor and I have a lot of respect for him" said Johnson.
Cooking brings Johnson great joy as he is able to express his artistic side and leave diners with memorable experiences. Johnson is currently at the Runaway Bay HEART Institute doing junior souse chef courses for the Culinary Institute of America. He plans to become an executive chef. Food was able to witness Johnson preparing chicken roulade stuffed with jerked sausage and plantain, topped with pineapple relish, served with encrusted mashed potatoes with papaya cloves and tomato herbal marinara. Johnson is a rising star in the making and is determined to be nothing but the best.