2011 New York Rising Star Sustainability Chef John Mooney’s professional life has been a winding culinary journey through all corners of the world, from the spiced hazes of India to the rolling hills of Ireland and the streets of New York. Bell Book & Candle in New York’s West Village is Mooney’s latest venture—and adventure—fusing the chef’s years of conventional cooking with a more recent and driving inspiration: sustainability.
After attending Kendall Culinary School in Illinois, Mooney worked in kitchens around the country, first for Chef Gabino Sotelino at nouveau French Ambria and Chef Dean Fearing at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Later, he moved to Washington, DC, to high-end Red Sage and Asian street food venture RAKU. At Red Sage, he worked as sous chef along with current business partner Mick O’Sullivan under influential industry pro Chef Mark Miller. In 1997, Mooney traveled to New York to become the sous chef at Tapika restaurant and Michael Jordan’s Steak House. And in 1998, he joined the team at the W Hotel New York, working with Drew Nieporent and Chef Michel Nischan to launch the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Heartbeat.
It was as chef de cuisine, and later executive chef, of Heartbeat that Mooney enhanced his interest in seasonal, fresh, and organic produce. He had obviously found his milieu; in 2004, James Beard named him one of the “Best Hotel Chefs” in the country. That same year, Mooney was appointed corporate consulting chef of India’s Taj Hotel group, opening the country’s first organic restaurant, PURE by Michel Nischan, and re-opening New Delhi’s premier fine-dining restaurant, Orient Express. 2006 took Mooney to Dublin, Ireland, where he was appointed executive chef at The Shelbourne Hotel. And two years later, he returned to the United States to open Highland Manor in Apopka, Florida, with partner Mick O’Sullivan. At Highland Manor, Mooney began the hydroponic gardening practices that define the ultra-seasonal menu of Bell Book & Candle, showcasing both the chef’s culinary journey and his commitment to responsibly sourced cuisine.