Featured Chef Profile: Joseph “JJ” Johnson

“Niman Ranch has some of the best farmers in the country and continues to be a household name for chefs. As a consumer, you should be able to trust your farmers and the products that they produce. I know I do. I trust Niman Ranch farmers.  These farmers are hardworking families that dedicate their lives to ensuring high quality meats. I believe in the the quality of Niman Ranch pork and also appreciate that their meat is raised humanely and sustainably. I respect the measures taken to ensure that their hogs are raised with care which in turn guarantees better tasting meat.”

JJ Johnson Headshot

Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson is a James Beard-nominated Executive Chef at The Cecil and Minton’s, both based in Harlem, NY. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he went on to hone his skills in some of New York’s most esteemed kitchens including Centro Vinoteca, Jane, and Tribeca Grill. In 2013, Chef JJ helped open The Cecil, NYC’s first Afro-Asian-American restaurant, with restaurateur Alexander Smalls, which was named Best New Restaurant of the Year in 2014 by Esquire Magazine. Soon after, he joined the kitchen of its sister restaurant Minton’s, the revived jazz supper club next door.

Chef JJ’s accolades include a nomination for a James Beard Foundation award for Rising Star Chef (2015), an award from Star Chefs as a Rising Star Community Chef (2015), being named as one of Observer’s “20 Under 40” list of extraordinary philanthropists (2016), Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Zagat’s 30 Under 30, and Eater Young Guns (all in 2014), and being recognized as Chef of the Year by New York African Restaurant Week (2015).

Our Top 10 Recipes for the Perfect Grill Out

Independence Day is the perfect time to get together with friends and family to celebrate freedom, liberty and justice for all. It’s also a great time to cook your favorite summer foods!

Before you set your party menu, pick one of our 10 favorite recipes to help you pull off the perfect 4th of July celebration. We have everything from salads to hot dogs and ribs. You’ll even find a home-made barbecue sauce and rub recipe to impress your friends with whatever cut of meat you choose.

These recipes are also great all summer long!

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What I Learned from My Father

Paul Willis on the family farm.
Paul Willis, Sarah’s father, on the family farm.

When Father’s Day has arrived, I find myself reminiscing about my dad and my childhood growing up on our farm in rural Thornton, Iowa.  My mom was in charge of our household and proudly introduced herself as a “farm wife”.  She cooked three meals a day and washed our dishes by hand.  My father was in charge of the farm work. He was a bit untraditional in that fact that he liked to cook as well.

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A Meat Lover’s Guide to Eating in Seattle

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Almost every restaurant you enter in Seattle has an open kitchen. Diners across the city patiently watch as chefs prepare their meal each night over good conversation and creative cocktails. Grill tops are nestled behind massive center islands akin to those found in a home, flanked by rustic pillars or fresh microgreens, and sometimes there’s even a “chefs counter” for the most intimate of dining views. It’s the ultimate in dinner theater.

The list of restaurants to choose from is growing year by year. With the boom in tech hiring at Amazon, Tableau, F5 Networks and Google, cranes cover the landscape and many houses are being remodeled into multi-unit apartments. Seattle has more customers than ever – and with more than enough money to support any industry. This translates to a growth in superior quality restaurants that satisfy the many tastes of natives and transplants alike.

We took a trip to Seattle to create a list of our top picks so you can enjoy the finest restaurants this sleepless city has to offer. Every restaurant we chose is owned by locals with a penchant for sourcing high quality and sustainable ingredients. From dry-aged steaks to smoked ham and porchetta, here is our meat lover’s guide to eating in Seattle.

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National Young Farmers Coalition: Building a Future for Young Farmers Across America

According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, farmers over the age of 65 outnumber farmers under the age of 35 by a ratio of 6-to-1. While the average age of a Niman Ranch farmer is 48 years old, the average age in America sits at 58 years. What opportunities exist to grow the number of young farmers nationally?

Because of a host of barriers not faced by previous generations, many young farmers are unable to start their own farm or take over the family business. We’ve seen issues range from skyrocketing land prices and student loan debt to difficulty taking out reasonable loans or finding reliable work. Inheriting land isn’t enough to allow for a farm to thrive financially these days, and with more than one child in many farm families, most of those who vie to take over have to find their own land regardless.

read more National Young Farmers Coalition: Building a Future for Young Farmers Across America

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

The planting season is in full swing and many farmers have already finished.  For organic farmers, timing and location is even more important than for traditional farmers.  They have to be very strategic about when the seeds are planted. One farmer told me he has to wait for just the right moment, after the weeds have had their first big growth spurt. He cultivates the weeds first, then plants the corn so it doesn’t have competition.

John
John, organic farmer from Iowa.

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Memorial Day in the Country

As we near Memorial Day, I decided to visit my Grandpa Oscar’s grave site at Pleasant View Cemetery.   It seems like yesterday that Oscar would stop over for coffee and offer up his advice about the farm operation, keeping us posted about the latest news in Thornton.  He passed away a few years ago when Sophia was just in elementary school.

Oscar gravesite

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Planting Season and Planning Season

It’s invigorating to be able to get outside and work in the soil once again after a long winter, much of which was spent making plans for the growing season. During preparation there are so many things to consider, including possibly adding a new or different aspect to the farm.  This could include increasing the diversity of our livestock operation by adding chickens, or adding cover crops to conserve our precious natural resources and stop soil erosion.  Before we do anything new, we spend time thoroughly examining our options to figure out what’s the right fit.

Paul Willis, Sarah's dad, planning what he's going to plant for the season.
Paul Willis, Sarah’s dad, planning what he’s going to plant for the season.

read more Planting Season and Planning Season