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5 Questions with Chef Solomon Johnson


Originally from Maryland and having attended culinary school in Philadelphia, Chef SOLOMON JOHNSON (aka Chef Swoop) is a private chef, caterer, and Kitchen Consultant who has been in Oakland since 2013 when he started a catering company specializing in international cuisine with Cali/Caribbean twist. Chef Swoop has been cooking in restaurants for 14 years; from plated coursed dinners with wine pairings to pop up fried chicken shops.

BFiO: Whose food do you enjoy in Oakland as much as your own?

CHEF SWOOP: I’m gonna say Chef Nelson over at Alamar. I really enjoy the Afro Caribbean culture that he brings to the table. His flavor profiles are bold, the portions are generous, and it’s all plated beautifully. I myself focus on a Cali/Caribbean fusion utilizing local produce to bring food products I grew up eating to the forefront of the food scene here. So It’s great to see a like minded chef who’s culture driven succeed with the food he love.

BFiO: What food do you think is overrated?

CHEF SWOOP: I think places like Ruth Chris and Benihana are WAY overrated. I’ve never had a good food experience at either of those places. I used to go when I was younger and honestly it was because my friends wanted to go and I didn’t feel like cooking. I know I might make some people mad with that statement but I think if you just concentrate at home, you can make the same food better at home on your own with less money then the restaurants can. lol

BFiO: What’s missing in the Oakland food scene?

CHEF SWOOP: Oakland needs more authentic Jamaican food.

Every time I want real Caribbean food I cook it myself because I can’t find what I’m looking for here at all. Don’t get me wrong. There are some exceptions. But I grew up in the DC/MD/VA area and there are ALOT of small mom and pop Jamaican spots in my neighborhood that are better than anything here. We have to change that.

BFiO: What local markets do you go to for ingredients/food?

CHEF SWOOP: In Oakland, I shop at Lake Merritt Farmers Market.

BFiO: What does The New NOrmal look like for Oakland restaurants & food businesses in the age of COVID-19?

CHEF SWOOP: I think The New Normal for food business in Oakland will look like small gatherings and boutique quality and quantity. With the way the virus is spreading it doesn’t seem like people will be able to go back into restaurants anytime soon. Hopefully when things get more under control we will be able to accept patrons at 35%-40% capacity safely without compromising ourselves or the patrons. I’m excited for the challenge and look forward to prepping with these thoughts in mind.

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