Born in Louisville, KY, army brat Wayne Johnson traveled the world, experiencing the diversity of various cultures while growing up. No matter where his family was based, the Johnson's were always together with family in Kentucky during the holidays.
His mother’s famous feasts were a definite influence on Johnson’s cooking in later years. As a high school and college Greco-and-Roman-style wrestler, Johnson took to running four to five miles a day to stay in shape after enjoying “those crazy feast times where Mom gave me the opportunity to try tastes of so many different types of dishes.”
With the goal of purchasing his first car, Johnson started working at the restaurant in a local Holiday Inn during high school, beginning as a dishwasher, bussing tables, and working his way up to prepping. He headed off to school at the University of Northern Colorado to study accounting. Three and a half years into cooking his way through college, he decided to pursue a culinary career, which by his own account “became more fun with each passing year.”
Johnson has served as executive chef at several Bay area hotels. Most recently he was executive chef for three years at the four diamond-rated Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco. With over 20 years of culinary experience, Johnson has been a board member of the Chef’s Association of the Pacific Coast. He has special training in the foods of Spain from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, which serves him well in the Mediterranean inspired Andaluca.
Johnson was lured north and became executive chef of the Mayflower Park Hotel in 1999. He oversees all food activities for the hotel, Andaluca Restaurant and Bar and Oliver’s Lounge. At Andaluca, Johnson gathers fresh local products, and uses the seductive flavor of Mediterranean spices such as cumin, saffron, paprika, and cinnamon to produce a palate of flavorful menu items. Under his culinary supervision, Andaluca has won Seattle’s Best Mediterranean Restaurant award several years running and Seattle Magazine’s Best Overall Restaurant award. The ZAGAT Survey 2003 listed Andaluca as one of “Seattle’s Top Mediterranean Restaurants” as well as being recognized in the top forty for Décor, and STarChefs.com named Johnson a 2004 Rising Star.
Johnson has worked tirelessly in the Seattle area volunteering for numerous causes including FareStart, a non-profit organization that trains the homeless for jobs in the food industry, March of Dimes, which works to prevent birth defects and infant mortality, PONCHO, which supports the arts, and Fred Hutchinson, a frontrunner in cancer research. His work for firefighters and homeless kids is particularly close to his heart. In what has become a holiday tradition, Johnson selects five local fire stations annually and creates a homey holiday meal for each. He brings the food to the station and is always on hand to serve it.
Johnson, who has two young sons, has worked with the University Family YMCA for more than two years. He prepares meals four times a year for the organization’s weekly Saturday night “Come Clean Dinners,” a homeless youth program that serves up to sixty kids, who live on the streets or in University District shelters. They are fed dinner, offered a place to take hot showers, supplied with toiletries, medical aid and counseling.
Johnson’s community service was featured in an article in the Seattle Times during the holiday season and he was awarded the 2002 Achievement for Community Service award from the Washington State Hotel and Lodging Association.