THE JAY-Z OF BBQ
FATHER | CELEBRITY CHEF | ENTREPRENEUR | TOP RATED PITMASTER
Self-sufficiency and discipline are hallmarks of Johnson’s persona, ingrained early in his life by his hard-working and devoted parents. Growing up a “latchkey kid” while his parents worked, Johnson learned to cook and take care of himself, while navigating the streets of Manhattan on his own. His parents’ hard work paid off, and they moved their family to Wyandanch, a suburb on Long Island, known equally for its less-than-stellar public schools and the exceptional artists and athletes it turned out. At times tempted to rebel, Johnson was set straight both by his parents, and his elders in the neighborhood, who took it upon themselves to keep an eye on the neighborhood kids.
After graduating high school, Johnson embarked on a college career at the University of Connecticut. He soon began to see his college classmates graduating and returning home to their parents. For Johnson, this was an unacceptable and unfathomable future, and during his second year of college, he altered course. It was a pivotal decision for the young man, and one that would shape the rest of his adult life. Relocating to New Jersey, Johnson began working in the custom furniture business, a trade he’d learned in his teen years from an uncle. Over the next few years, Johnson honed his craft and at 27, began his own custom furniture business, living in New Jersey and working in Manhattan. It was during this time that he began to cultivate a passion for cooking. He began to consider a future in the catering industry.
THE SPARK THAT IGNITED THE PHIRE
Johnson began to explore markets and eventually settled on Phoenix, Arizona. It was there, in the valley of the sun, where his long-time dream of cooking for the masses began to come to fruition. He began a catering company, Sammiches, and quickly gained a reputation in the valley for mouth-watering food, punctuated by professionalism in his business dealings. Encouraged by clients, family and friends, he began entering BBQ competitions, and after winning second place in a high-level competition in Lake Havasu, the humble Johnson realized what his customers and friends already knew – he was destined to be one of the best in the pit, nationwide.
In 2016, Johnson was invited to the Kansas City Royal, an invite-only BBQ competition widely considered the “World Series” of BBQ. Six hundred teams, from all over the world competed to be crowned the best in the world. In accordance with his humble nature, when the announcer announced “Phil Johnson” as 5th place winner, Johnson wondered if perhaps there were another Phil Johnson at the competition. “Phil the Grill” had arrived, and took the stage in the gold standard of BBQ Competitions.
In 2017, Johnson launched the BBQ Trapp Haus in a prime location on Roosevelt Row in Downtown Phoenix’s Art District. The past two years have seen Johnson evolve into the ‘Hardest working man in BBQ,’ as he watered the seed he planted with the Trapp Haus and hopped from interview to TV appearance to competition to back behind the grill at ‘The Trapp.
THE GRILL IS LIT, LET'S BURN
He became a familiar face for foodies, becoming a celebrity chef thanks to appearances on Food Network’s Chopped Grill Masters and Food Network Canada’s Fire Master, where he earned the title of Firemaster Champion on the show’s second season, which will air in the US in 2020. He also appeared on Destination America’s BBQ competition show, earning his way into the semi-final round.
Johnson also had the opportunity to be a part of Martha Stewart’s USA Today Wine and Food Experience in 2018. He toured the country with the homemaking heavyweight, and brought his brand of New York City BBQ to a dozen cities, including Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles, while working hand-in-hand with some of the industry’s leading chefs, including Scott Contant and Arun Sanchez.
In the Summer of 2019, he was a contestant on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl - Flay vs. Symon, which featured the eight ‘greatest BBQ stars in the country,’ chosen from 185 top pitmasters. Competing on Bobby Flay’s team, Johnson earned high praise from the veteran chef, who described Johnson as someone “who sure knows his bar-b-que.”
Most recently, Johnson appeared on the TODAY Show, demoing recipes that can be cooked with leftover brisket.
The next stops on Phil Johnson’s journey include high-profile television opportunities, the launch of Phil’s Rubs and Sauces with Old World Spice, and the expansion of his BBQ empire in Phoenix. Like he has throughout his life, he will continue to meet obstacles with determination and poise. With his daughters by his side, his parents living nearby, and the support of his many happy customers and partners, the sky is the limit for the 47 year old celebrity chef and award-winning pitmaster, the “Jay-Z of BBQ,” Phil “The Grill” Johnson.