Friday, January 21, 2022

In LA, Restaurateur Brad Johnson is Creating Contemporary Soul Dishes ‘Without Losing Authenticity’

brad johnson
Brad Johnson

*Restaurateur Brad Johnson has opened savory hot spots for foodies on both coasts. Considered dinner-club royalty, Brad is the son of New York restaurateur Howard Johnson, who owned the hip Upper West Side restaurant The Cellar in the 70’s.

It was a star-studded spot frequented by the likes of Arthur Ashe, Bill Cosby, Phyllis Hyman, Muhammad Ali, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Diahann Carroll, Stevie Wonder, and Miles Davis, who wrote in his book, “Miles, the Autobiography,” that the Cellar had “the best fried chicken in the world.”

Brad said his father was “a trailblazer, he laid the foundation for me to follow in his footsteps. I learned about music, what to wear, how to carry myself, and pride of ownership.”

post & beam (grits & shrimp)

That pride in ownership has allowed Brad to own and/or operate a list of notable restaurants and nightclubs since the 80’s. Today, he’s producing Southern-influenced cuisine at Post & Beam and Willie Jane, both located in Los Angeles.

“The objective is not to skirt tradition but to give it a tuneup, with dishes that show that it can be contemporary without losing the authenticity,” said Johnson in recent interview with the New York Times. In the article, the publication highlights black chefs, black cookbook authors and progressive soul restaurants that are “reinventing, reinterpreting and reinvigorating what’s thought of as African-American food.”

post & beam gumbo

Johnson’s first L.A. opening was the real-life Roxbury, on which the Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan comedy was based, “A Night at the Roxbury.”

“I did that club based on the belief that there wasn’t the nightlife in Los Angeles that I had seen in New York. I came to Los Angeles and we were able to get this great building and do three concepts in one: a nightclub on top, restaurant in the middle and blues club n the first level,” Brad told Vanity Fair.

Longevity in the restaurant business is no easy feat, so what does Johnson attribute as the key to his successful 30+ years in the business? As Black Enterprise notes, it’s all about: 1) choosing the right location, 2) identifying talented partners, 3) having a good concept and 4) landing a vested investor.

“Funding is a big challenge in our business because of the risk factors,” says Johnson. “Rarely is our business attached to a real estate deal, which makes it a little safer to most investors.”

Brad says the biggest obstacle many African American-owned establishments face is the lack of ‘property ownership and access to sufficient capital,’ both vital to ensure longevity.

post & beam (brunch)

post & beram chocolate pecan mess

post & beam collageGovind Armstrong of Willie Jane and Post & Beam apprenticed in Wolfgang Puck’s Spago when he was a teenager, and a review of Post & Beam’s Twitter reveal pics of some of his signature savory dishes, such a creamy shrimp and grits and tender ox tails. As BE notes, Post & Beam utilizes an on-site garden and the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative.

Per NY York Times:

At Willie Jane, in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, and at Post & Beam, in the Baldwin Hills area, Mr. Armstrong, the executive chef, cooks Anson Mills grits until they are creamy, then adds a spice- and bourbon-spiked shrimp paste adapted from an Edna Lewis recipe. Then come shrimp from Baja California, pork belly that has been cured and smoked on site and microgreens from the gardens outside.

If any dish at Willie Jane represents the new wave, it’s Mr. Armstrong’s vegan crab cakes, in which slivers of hearts of palm echo the texture of crab meat. The cakes are paired with a persimmon chutney as well as oven-roasted squash that’s puréed with tahini suffused with homemade berbere, the spice mix associated with North Africa.

Johnson says his long-term vision for the two restaurants is to launch a product line. “Govind has this fantastic all-around spice that he’s perfected over the years, so, we are going to be bottling that along with a couple of other products.”

Read the full NY Times article here.

brad johnson & govind armstrong
Restaurateur Brad Johnson and Chef Govind Armstrong

Post & Beam also boasts a hip jazz brunch on Sunday. The restaurant is located at 3767 Santa Rosalia Drive in Los Angeles, and Willie Jane is located at 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA.

For more info visit Twitter and the Post & Beam website.

post & beam

 

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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