Staff Spotlight – Chef Casey Johnson

Executive Chef Casey Johnson is passionate not only about his craft, but about his job here at Miami and his family. He is one of five executive chefs on campus and he takes care of Armstrong Student Center,  Bell Tower Commons, and King Cafe – Armstrong being the place he spends most of his time. Update: As of Monday, November 20th, Casey Johnson was promoted into the Corporate Executive Chef role of dining services. We are excited about him being in this new position!

What is your background like? Personal/Professional?

I am from Sylvania, Ohio right outside of Toledo. I went right out of high school to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. From there I did my externship at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, which is a big hunting/equestrian high-end style resort. After graduating, I did an MIT (manager in training) program at school and was a sous chef for a restaurant on campus. After moving back to Toledo with my wife, I held a sous chef position at a local country club and an Italian restaurant called Mancy’s for 3-4 years. After my time at Mancy’s, I accepted a food and beverage director/executive chef position at the Hilton Garden Inn in Findlay. My wife was then accepted into a position here at Miami, then I was lucky enough to accept a position here a year ago in October.

What is the most exciting part about the job?

Not just in this job, but in the industry in general, you learn something new every day. I am not a desk person and I don’t like sitting still, which is perfect for this industry.

What made you decide to be a chef?

I don’t really know. I am the only chef in the family other than a far extended cousin. I always grilled with my dad and baked with my mom, but neither of my parents are culinarians. I grew up on your basic mid-west style cooking with mayonnaise-based casseroles and flank steak (haha). I am not sure on what made me want to do it, but it is probably a love from the arts. I wanted to be a zoologist, then a photographer, then an architect, focusing my mind on the arts.

How would you describe your relationship with the guests?

Friendly! I love talking and working with the guests. Some people would be shocked to find out I’m introverted, but that’s because I’ve challenged myself to be extroverted to improve my overall communication. As a food and beverage director prior, I had to work directly with guests, which improved my customer service. I’m still getting used to seeing so many students, even though we have some regulars, it’s a joy to meet new people everyday.

What is your favorite thing about MU Dining?

I like the diversity of it! I think that working within the department and with the direction we are going, it’s going to get even more diverse. I know most dining has pizza or stir-fry, but we get to do new and exciting dishes here – with more to come! I helped collaborate with the opening of 4 new concepts in Armstrong – the Toasted Bagel, Cafe Lux, Red Zone, and Haines update.

How would you describe yourself personally?

I am passionate. If we talk food, I can talk all day due to my passion for the industry itself. I drive myself because of my passions and for the food industry. I definitely take my pride for work home and instill the idea of passion to my daughter as much as I can. Honestly, I genuinely love hanging out and cooking with my daughter because I’m a family man. I like to cook at home as well but not as high-end cuisine.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I really enjoy photography. Since the industry is so busy, it’s tough to have hobbies outside of work, but I’ve recently picked up photography again. I definitely want to start hiking and biking more because I really like spending time outside. Doing activities help me to clear my mind from the busy weeks I have.

What is your favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

Parmesan Risotto. The simplicity comes with its ingredients, but it’s a dish that takes passion to execute properly. As far as a favorite dish to eat, that changes all the time. I prefer cooking Italian though. I was trained more in Italian-style of cooking. The French-style is to take the ingredients and make it their own, while the Italian-style is to take the ingredients and enhance the flavor that is naturally there.

What is your favorite TV show?

I’ve always watched House and can habitually watch it. The Office is also one of my favorites. I enjoy the comedy in both.

Cat or dog?

I am a dog person. I have a wheaten terrier at home. I am allergic to cats and dogs in a way.

Any advice for people applying/working for MU Dining?

This is a great place to work! You’re not going to find better benefits and community in this area. We want people to apply and want people here. It requires time on your feet and work ethic, but it pays well and has a welcoming feel to it.

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