2014 Washington, D.C. Area Rising Star Chef Johnny Spero of minibar by José Andrés

2014 Washington, D.C. Area Rising Star Chef Johnny Spero of minibar by José Andrés
December 2014

Originally from Baltimore, Johnny Spero began his culinary career at 16, working in various Charm City kitchens. He attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Florida, and after graduating, made his way back north to hone his skills in Washington, D.C.

Spero first took a position in the savory kitchen at Komi, working alongside James Beard award-winning chef Johnny Monis, but eventually segued  to become the pastry chef. Following Komi, Spero made his way to Chilhowie, Virginia, to work with StarChefs.com Rising Star Chefs John and Karen Shields at their destination restaurant, Townhouse. During this time, Spero also traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he staged at hugely influence Noma. Having built a name for himself among Washington, D.C.’s culinary community, Spero opened Suna as chef and co-owner, serving a seasonal multi-course tasting menu.

Deciding the timing wasn’t right, Spero and business partner Ari Gejdenson closed Suna just a few months after opening. Spero then landed as executive sous chef of minibar, the critically acclaimed culinary lab of American culinary icon José Andrés. Spero works closely with Andrés and his research and development team to conceive menus, and he oversees the daily operations of the James Beard Award-winning restaurant. Under Spero’s direction, minibar, was awarded a perfect four-star rating by The Washington Post

Interview with Washington, D.C. Area Rising Star Chef Johnny Spero of minibar

Meha Desai: When did you start cooking professionally?
Johnny Spero:
I started working in restaurants so my parents would let me get my driver’s license.

MD: Who do you consider to be your mentor?
John Schultz at Townhouse. I was working there for a year before they closed. He taught me to pick product in the garden and have respect for ingredients. 

MD: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
: I’ve been here on and off for eight years now. I know the local community really well. I have a tight circle of friends based around the culinary scene in D.C. I don’t look at them like a threat or competition, but more like friends and family. 

MD: What was the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
Opening and closing a restaurant. I opened my own restaurant right before I came to minibar. It was called Suna.I spent a year doing it, but it was only open for four to five months. My business partner and I didn’t see eye to eye. That was when I was 26.

MD: What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of running this kitchen. It’s José Andrés’ signature restaurant, his baby. He trusts me to run it. I think that that’s big.

MD: What's your five year plan?
I don’t have a specific path. I just hope in five years I’ll be in a kitchen and still cooking and continuing to push myself. I’ve been in D.C. for 8 years now. I’ve seen the culinary scene evolve, so I’d like to be a part of it.

MD: Describe your cuisine in one sentence.
Clean, uncomplicated flavor with ingredients in the forefront and techniques comes after.