Today, Chef Justin Johnson announced that he will be parting ways with Harvest Market in Watertown in order to open Sustainable Kitchens, a business focused on elevating commercial and non-commercial food service operations.
On Feb. 6, Johnson will resign from his position as executive chef and food service director at the Watertown Regional Medical Center's restaurant, Harvest Market. Three days later, on Feb. 9, Sustainable Kitchens will open in Wauwatosa, with the goal of evaluating food and operations in both commercial and non-commercial operations and based on those evaluations, develop systems, processes, recipes, menus, branding and training in an effort to improve quality and increase revenue.
Though the launch is weeks away, Johnson has already begun working with a few Greater Milwaukee restaurants.
In addition to working with commercial and non-commerical sectors, Sustainable Kitchens will specialize in helping health care kitchens transition to scratch-cooking, implement onsite farms, and train existing staff to give them the skills to succeed in a "real" food focused operation. Johnson plans to do beyond just consulting, but help implement lasting, successful change.
Johnson was hired by the Watertown Regional Medical Center in 2012 to lead its new food service program, a process which included demolishing the old cafeteria, an intensive re-training of food service staff, a move to all scratch cooking and the implementation of an 11,000 square foot garden that supported most of the kitchen’s vegetable needs during the growing season.
The results were lauded by multiple publications, as well as earned Johnson the title of "Food Service Director of the Month" for May 2014 by Food Service Director Magazine. The chef also received a nomination from the National Restaurant Association in 2013 for the group's Operator Innovations in Sustainability Award.
In addition to his work with Harvest Market, Johnson has served as a guest chef for WISN-12, a freelance contributor to OnMilwaukee.com and executive chef of both Hotel Metro Milwaukee and Harwood Place Retirement Community.
According to a press release, Johnson's departure from the Watertown Regional Medical Center was amicable and not linked to national for-profit hospital chain LifePoint's recent acquisition of the rural, non-profit hospital.