Chef Johnene is a native of New Orleans, LA. She recently moved to Los Angeles, California. She is an alumnus of John Ehret High School and Nicholls State University.
Femme a` femme: Welcome, Chef Johnene and thank you for graciously agreeing to be the 1st Featured Femme for our blog! We’re excited to have you! So let’s get right into it!
Femme a` femme: Why did you decide to become a chef?
Chef Johnene: I always loved to cook, I also want to sing and make music, but I thought becoming a chef was more realistic career choice. I thought if I become a chef, I could cook for celebrities and get into the entertainment industry that way. I always wanted to change the world and be well-known for it. I thought maybe I could be known as this great chef.
Femme a` femme: Did you go to culinary school?
Chef Johnene: Yes I attended culinary school at Nicholls State University in Thibodeaux, LA.
Femme a` femme: What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?
Chef Johnene: I earned a Bachelor’s of Culinary Arts and Science degree. I am also certified in ServSafe, which certifies that I am educated on the safe handling of food.
Femme a` femme: What did you like best about your experience with college ?
Chef Johnene: Being on my own, I know that may sound a little mean, but I loved having independence. I enjoyed living on campus, learning various culinary techniques to enhance my craft. I also enjoyed cooking foods, I normally would not make at home.
Femme a` femme: What did you like least about you experience with college?
Chef Johnene: Waking up early for class was my least favorite part of college. One semester I had class all day on Fridays, I was not able to go home as much as I wanted that semester.
Femme a` femme: You mentioned earlier that you initially did not want to attend college. What changed your mind?
Chef Johnene: Honestly, I wanted a car, I figured my dad would get me a car so that I could drive to college. Also a friend of mines told me about their experience at Nicholls, she made college life sound fun. After talking to her, I thought maybe I should go to college, get a car, and make everybody happy. I attended school for 2 years, then I sat out for about 2 years. My oldest sister encouraged me to finish college before getting married and having children. A sermon at church also inspired me; pastor ended the sermon with “finish school”. That same day I went to my friend’s house and applied to go back to college. At first I was going to go back to get my associates degree, but I decided to stay and get my bachelor’s degree.
Femme a` femme: Why didn’t you want to attend college?
Chef Johnene: I wanted to sing and have a career in music, I thought there is no way I’m going to finish college. I thought about all the classes I would have to take, I did not think I would do well. I honestly I felt that I was not smart enough to meet the requirements to get a degree.
Femme a` femme: What helped you overcome feelings of inadequacy?
Chef Johnene: When I sat out of college for 2 years I worked and had an opportunity to reflect on life. I got my 1st job at a luxury hotel in New Orleans. I got a tidbit of the real world, and worked with people who were content with where they were, no shade to them, but I was only 21 or 22 years old and I realized this is not what I wanted. I can remember one time when I worked at a bank, an investment banker cashed a check; one of his checks was $21,000.00, just one check! I thought to myself, girl you are sitting behind this computer making these lil $600 checks! After that I told myself you need to go back to college, this is not what you are supposed to be doing. I thought about going back to school for business to be an investment banker, but I did not feel passionate about it. People were saying things to me like, “how much do chefs make”, “are you sure you want to go to school for that”. I almost changed my major to business, but I felt that if I was not passionate about business it would only take me so far. For that reason, I decided to go back to school to pursue a culinary degree, because that is where my passion is. I believe that you should never chase money, chase your purpose and your passion because ultimately that will be more valuable than something that looks monetarily valuable in the moment. I got my 1st shot at a celebrity chef job a month after I graduated.
Femme a` femme: Tell me about a day in your life—before and after your move to California.
Chef Johnene: Prior to moving to California, my schedule varied depending on the day of the week, I worked as a personal chef for a New Orleans Saints linebacker and his family, did private catering events, worked on my blog, attended church, and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. I moved to California in July to work as a personal chef for celebrity clients. I mostly cooked breakfast and lunch for them, which required me to spend a lot of my time at the grocery store. I was at the grocery store so often that I made friends with store employees! Before I ever came to Los Angeles I always wanted to come here, I felt it was a place for opportunities, so now I’m here!
Femme a` femme: If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ for restaurants you’d recommend, which would you include and why?
Chef Johnene: Restaurants I would recommend in New Orleans or LA?
Femme a` femme: Anywhere.
Chef Johnene: I really love Brigtsen’s Restaurant in New Orleans, it’s very authentic contemporary creole. I would also recommend Neyow’s Creole Café. LA is not touching New Orleans with food, at all, no where near. However, if I had to recommend a restaurant that I really love here I would say Tao. It’s an Asian restaurant. Chain restaurants that I love are Houston’s and Cheddar’s. I love Cheddar’s because their menu is versatile and you can mix and match menu items.
Femme a` femme: Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
Chef Johnene: Honestly, not really. At one point I admired Emeril Lagasse, because I watched him a lot as a kid. While in college, I admired Chef Frank Brigtsen, he’s close to 70 years old and he sticks to his recipes, he goes to his restaurant almost every day, his recipes and food are great!
Femme a` femme: What is your favorite cuisine to cook and why?
Chef Johnene: I love Cajun and Creole cuisine, because I am a New Orleans girl. I love to cook any type of Cajun, Creole or, seafood dish because I’m from NOLA and I got to represent!
Femme a` femme: Do clients want you to cook Cajun or Creole food?
Chef Johnene: Not necessarily, they usually want to eat according to their dietary needs or preferences. People in LA are not accustom to eating Cajun/Creole food. A lot of people in LA don’t eat pork, I have even slacked off on pork since being here.
Femme a` femme: What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you going during your darkest hour?
Chef Johnene: 1) The main thing I always tell myself is, this is just a season. Meaning that this is not permanent nor my final destination. 2) I tell myself to keep going, do whatever it takes to get to where I’m trying to go. Don’t give up on yourself. 3) God is here with me, He would not bring me this far to leave me. I serve a God of confirmation not confusion. I keep that in mind whenever I am in a situation that feels confusing.
Femme a` femme: I know that you have experience with acting and singing. Do you plan to pursue these talents further? Why or why not?
Chef Johnene: I absolutely do plan to pursue those talents, everyday people tell me I am funny, I also impersonate people well. I just don’t know how to start. Another thing that hindered me from pursuing my singing career is that I get nervous on stage, I don’t like the attention. I have been praying for God to help me with that. I definitely want to pursue both.
Femme a` femme: Do you have any words of wisdom for any girls, women, or aspiring chefs who may read this?
Chef Johnene: Always believe in yourself! That is the most important thing for whatever you are trying to do. If you believe that you can then you can. In addition, there is a field for personal/private chefs. When I was in college, I was not aware of that option. Restaurant chefs are praised, but it is not the same for personal or private chefs. I think a lot of kids are interested in becoming a private chef, but may not be sure how to get in the field. I plan to go back and speak to students about my experience as a personal chef. Lastly, if you really want to be a chef for the rest of your life, you have to practice your craft and make sure your culinary skills are well rounded.
Femme a` femme: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Chef Johnene: Success! Something great, something far beyond what I am thinking. I also plan to design a professional clothing line for chefs. I am not sure if success will be in culinary, music, or entertainment. It might be all three or it might be just one. Only God knows!
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