Johnny Iuzzini’s earned three stars from Michelin, four stars from the New York Times, and a James Beard Award for Pastry Chef of the Year in 2006. He’s worked under the highest acclaimed chefs in the industry (Payard, Haas, Poitier), and now proudly wears his title as Executive Pastry Chef at Jean Georges. Like a straight-A student, Iuzzini’s accolades undoubtedly match his talents and CIA education. Here, he dazzles with a mango lassi with carrot froth as well as decadent dessert flights. And to think, his dream was to race motorcycles…
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to race motorcycles or be a stunt man.
How did you get into food?
I got my working papers at 15, I got a job washing dishes at a local
country club. I never got an allowance- my dad told me that if you
want money, go make it. So I worked my way up to a prep cook and I was
You’ve worked with some of the most illustrious French chefs
in the world, including Daniel Boulud, Francois Payard and Jean-Georges. What
are you most memorable experiences?
They are all extraordinary individuals and couldn’t be more different from each other. I learned so many things from them- I was lucky enough to be part of the teams that claimed 4-stars from the New York Times and 3-stars from Michelin.
What was the impetus behind your move from Daniel to
I grew up under Daniel’s
watchful eye; I felt in order to grow and earn respect, I needed to move on and
work with a different chef. I had a lot to prove to myself at that time.
How have you integrated the Asian influences that inspire many of the savory dishes at Jean Georges?
Jean Georges is constantly bringing me new ingredients and spices to work with and learn about. I feel as though the flow from the savory to the desserts is seamless.
With the recent wave of NYC dessert bars, has it ever crossed your mind to open your
Sure. I had an idea to do a dessert bar/lounge a few years ago based on my history working in both restaurants and clubs simultaneously. I have always wanted to integrate the two. I talked to a few friends about doing it with me and then just didn’t motivate myself to do it fast enough. I guess I missed the boat on that one.
What’s your favorite dessert on the pastry menu right now?
Right now we are getting amazing Tristar strawberries from upstate NY. I do a 4-part tasting with them, utilizing them differently in each component.
What’s your least favorite dessert (and yes, you must pick one)?
I would have to say Jean Georges’ molten chocolate cake, only because it has been imitated so much and everyone has a version.
What is your junk food of choice?
I love donuts and fried chicken. My cholesterol hit 280 this year, so now I am watching my diet a bit more closely.
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC?
I love Lupa and Peasant for the exceptional Italian food. Also Paladar for its super fresh and local modern Mexican food.
What culinary trend do you most embrace?
I believe in the evolution of techniques and technology. I love
to learn new things from my colleagues.
What trend do you wish would die already?
I don’t like when people use ingredients or techniques for
the sake of saying they are using them, versus for the purpose of making the dish better or
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or restaurants in the works?
Spill the beans…
Jean Georges keeps me pretty busy. He has a lot of projects on the horizon that I will be assisting with. I have also been working on a business plan/project with a friend/partner for a high concept bar with intent of rolling them out across the country. It’s super exciting. I want to challenge myself again and try something different.
What dessert will you be demonstrating for the Star Chef’s
International Chefs Congress this year?
I will be doing two components out of four from the current chocolate tasting at Jean Georges. It will be a warm chocolate, fontina and black olive panini, and a crispy warm “donut.”