I am Amanda Grace Johnson; an experimental chef de cuisine, whole-foods pastry chef, passionate writer and activist, protest singer and songwriter, and fledgling multimedia storyteller. I am currently based in Los Angeles. I recently relocated from London, where I’ve lived for the past 20 years, but I am originally from Florida.
I did not set out to become a chef, it was a passion that grew more and more into a vocation. In London, I was the creator of the underground restaurant, Midnight Steakout. Midnight Steakout started life as a small pop-up dinner for friends, and friends of friends, on the roof garden of my flat in Wapping. I cooked simple dinners of steak on the BBQ, served with vegetables I grew in the garden, and my homemade cakes.
Midnight Steakout quickly snowballed into a series of huge, all-night parties, and themed, sit-down dinners, held in various, secret industrial spaces, for 172 people.
I am originally from DeLand, Florida, where I also founded the baking business, Gracie Gourmet. Gracie Gourmet became known throughout the town for its unique, bespoke, free-from, sweet & savoury, sustainable, artisanal modern British & American fine foods. Gracie Gourmet produced all manner of cakes and baked goods, all made with whole-food, natural ingredients, organic and locally-sourced wherever possible.
I discovered a love for food at a young age, through a passion for travel and discovering diverse cultures, and at an even younger age, through the delicious homegrown produce in my parent’s kitchen garden, and through spending long, summer days sat eating fruit in mulberry and Florida citrus trees.
When I was 14, a chance meeting at a pizza parlour in my hometown led to me being discovered and leaving home (chaperoned by my mother, sorry mom) to begin an international high-fashion modelling career, which spanned over 15 years.
This experience gave me the chance to travel and live all over the world. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, Iceland, North and Central America.
The food and cultures of many countries have influenced me and given me an insight into a multitude of fare, not to mention a diverse palate and a taste for the exotic. The cuisines of Japan, Thailand, Italy, Spain, France, England and California being among some of my favourites.
When I was 16, I left New York to live on an organic raspberry farm in Northern California, which helped to turn me on to healthy living. The woman who owns the farm, an incredible botanist, midwife, farmer, and all around renaissance woman, was instrumental in introducing me to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, and true, farm-to-table eating.
When I was 17, I went to London for a week, met a boy on my first day there, fell in love and ended up staying. The food in England has come a long way in the past 20 years, and there has been an explosion of excitement happening on the culinary scene. My cooking has, thankfully, also progressed since the early days and some memorable dishes such as ‘period pie’ and ‘welly stew’ (as in wellington boots). I am grateful to the friends who were amazing cooks and taught me so much.
Food is a passion which has been taking up more and more of my focus. My other great loves have always been music and writing. Making music has long been my preoccupation and I have created and been singer/songwriter with several different bands, and recorded over six original albums.
I have been writing since I was a kid and have turned my hand, not only to songs, but also prose, poetry, essays, articles, memoir. I penned the moderately read blog The Silver Jay for some years in London. The Silver Jay was a collection of tragic-comedy, autobiographical vignettes, essays, and a series of short stories I wrote called Things That Happened When I Was Beautiful. Convinced I wanted to be a novelist, I studied for and completed a BA Hons Humanities and English Literature from Birkbeck College, University of London. After studying postmodernism to the point of exhaustion, and having become disillusioned with fiction and more interested in writing about what is currently going on with the world, I decided to do my post-grad in journalism. I have, so far, completed the first half of an MA Digital Journalism from Goldsmiths College, University of London.
I am passionate about food, food politics, food justice, sustainability, reducing food waste, health and nutrition, overcoming food poverty, permaculture, urban farming, farm to table, agricultural diversification, and the overall raising of awareness of the issues surrounding food. The ultimate dream is the creation of a world where everyone has access to fresh, nutritious, delicious and sustainable food.
I am currently enjoying life on the beach in Santa Monica, studying and regularly practicing kundalini yoga, cooking for pop-ups with my social enterprise, Food Chariot, working towards completing a semiautobiograpical tragicomedy, writing songs, and preparing to return to London to finish my MA at Goldsmiths.