Talking National Nutrition Month with Chef Casey Johnson

March is National Nutrition Month, which is a nutrition education and information campaign, focusing on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

So, we reached out to some of our talented and experienced chefs and asked them to share their advice for making healthy food choices this month and beyond. Today’s chef is Chef Casey Johnson.

Chef Johnson is an executive chef at Miami University, overseeing Armstrong Student Center, Bell Tower Place and King Cafe. Chef Johnson, originally from Ohio, went to culinary school in New York, interned in West Virginia and found his way back to Ohio before taking his current position with Miami University’s dining services.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself and your background in dining.

My name is Casey Johnson. I’m originally from Toledo, OH and have lived in both New York and West Virginia for some time. I attended college at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and, while in school, I did my internship with the Greenbrier Hotel & Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

After graduation I participated in the M.I.T program where I was a teaching assistant/sous chef at The Caterina de’ Medici restaurant on campus for Chef Alberto Vanoli for a year. Once I completed the M.I.T program, my wife and I decided to move back to Ohio for her to attend school, while living in Toledo. I worked in a couple different Italian restaurants and finally became sous chef for a local restaurant, Mancy’s Italian Grill.

From there I moved into a food & beverage director position for Hilton Garden Inn where I was one of the opening managers for their Findlay, OH property. During that time, my wife was accepted into the graduate program here at Miami University, so we moved south and I ended up getting one of the executive chef positions here at the university.

Q: Tell me what you do here at Miami, the different tasks you are responsible for and what role you play in our dining services as a whole.

I’m responsible for overseeing the management of Armstrong Student Center, Bell Tower Place, and King Cafe. That includes the day-to-day needs of each property, recipe management, proper food safety, and concept development. The chefs on campus are here to back up and assist the front line staff members. We obviously do a lot of the planning and technical recipe work, but the front line staff plays the biggest role in our dining service department on campus.

Q: The theme for National Nutrition Month this year is “Put Your Best Fork Forward” to emphasize that each of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices. What does this theme mean to you and in what ways do you believe people can make healthy changes to their diets during National Nutrition Month and beyond?

“Put Your Best for Forward,” to me, kind of summarizes what I had already planned for my year. Between the birth of my daughter at the end of 2015 and me turning 30 this year, I’ve decided to make healthier choices in my own life. I’d like to make the next decade of my life the healthiest one I’ve had thus far.

I’m a huge believer and advocate for the Farm-to-Table movement. I feel this movement can really help increase the healthier options on our plates. Eating whole, unprocessed food, and as locally as possible, is always going to be the best choice when trying to make a healthier choice. I believe this quote from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food sums up my belief on healthy food, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Q: In what ways do you think students at Miami can “Put their best fork forward”?

I believe that if the younger generation helps to continue this Farm-to-Table movement by supporting local farmers markets and making seasonally, local choices, the demand for these product will increase, as will supply (hopefully). This will help make these whole, unprocessed foods more readily available, allowing more Americans to eat healthy at a lower cost.

The students here at Miami and at every university really do have the power to change something as long as they pay attention to the choices they make in their food. “Putting Their Best Fork Forward” is not only good for their health but the health of this planet.

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