On the Line: Colleen Johnson of 50 Forks, Part Two
Photo by LP Hastings

On the Line: Colleen Johnson of 50 Forks, Part Two

Even in her spare time, Chef Colleen winds up incorporating food into her hobbies. Her experience spans decades of working with great chefs like Thomas Keller. She almost gets us nostalgic for cooking class. Almost.

Read our interview with Colleen Johnson of 50 Forks, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two. . . .

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Gardening. I have San Marzano tomatoes, English peas, haricot verts, Japanese eggplant, and Dutch baby potatoes. I found these bags that you set up with dirt, and you can grow potatoes in them. There's nothing better than a potato that you pull from the ground and eat immediately. I'll be planting sugar pumpkins and butternut squash soon. They take 100 days to grow.

Last song playing on your radio/smart phone/iPod:
God Put a Smile Upon Your Face by Coldplay.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Los Angeles and grew up here and there. The Art Institute brought me to Orange County.

What did you study in school?
I studied English Literature at Cal State Long Beach and UCLA.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Christmas morning. I was an only child, and my mother would make it special. She would turn our living room into a fairyland. One year she spent the entire night decorating. She would also bake every night with my grandmother from before Thanksgiving on. We're Irish, so we like a big food fest.

Who would you love to cook for?
Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. I KNOW they would be completely honest with telling me what they truly thought of the meal. Besides, I would just love to sit at that table and listen to them discuss just about anything!

Besides the travel, are/were there any other perks to being a private chef?
I worked for people that could, pretty much, have anyone cook for them, and they chose me. Perks-- sailing, getting to go to places and meet people that I don't think I would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

What were you up to five years ago?
Traveling to Italy, working in Maine.

When was the last time you were in Italy? What do you love most about being there?
Two years ago. I love everything about Italy, from the culture, to the food. Everything.

The last book you read or last movie watched; how was it?
The Exotic Marigold Hotel. Loved it!

Last thing you looked up online:
Chickens and chicken coops. I want to lay my own eggs. I found chickens that will lay up to 260 eggs a year. I want to get three of them from Lompoc. Canning is also something I've also gotten into.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I'd probably be back in Japan teaching.

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