Q&A: Restaurant critic Brad A. Johnson gives us the recipe for success

Ramona in Cancun, Mexico // Photo by Brad A. Johnson

From here, it seems like Brad A. Johnson is living our dream life: he’s a food critic and photographer who gets paid to travel and dine out, he’s won a prestigious James Beard Award — one of the culinary world’s highest honors — and, perhaps most enviously, he recently acted as one half of a two-person team that tackled the arduous task of reviewing every single restaurant in Disneyland.

But while the nature of food writing sounds like heaven, the field definitely deals with its fair share of criticism: not only was the profession villainized in our generation’s most eminent film about cartoon rodents—Ratatouille—but on a more personal note, Brad’s O.C. Register article, “The 75 Best Places to Eat in Orange County,” stirred up some controversy within Roadtrip Nation’s Southern California-based Slack channels. (Ramen Yamadaya? Et tu, Brad?!)

So to clear up all of these conflicting narratives, we went straight to the source himself, to find out once and for all what it’s really like getting paid to eat.

First things first: What’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted?

What did you study in school? And how did you decide?

What caught your interest first — food or writing? Or did the two always go hand-in- hand?

I was joking, of course, but the editor asked if I would please do it because he was on a very tight deadline and couldn’t publish such a terrible story. I said no; he pleaded until I said yes. He gave me a wad of cash, and I reviewed a trendy new restaurant. He loved the review, and I loved writing it. That’s when I decided to go back to college and get a degree in magazine journalism.

Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita in Matera, Italy // Photo by Brad A. Johnson

Give us a little bit more background re: how you got to where you’re at today.

What does your average day look like?

Are there any writers and/or chefs that you look up to?

As for chefs who have genuinely inspired me, it’s a long list: Joel Robuchon (France, Las Vegas), Marco Pierre White (London), Hiro Urasawa (Beverly Hills), Angela Hartnett (London), Andre Chiang (Singapore), Stephen Pyles (Dallas), David Thompson (Bangkok)…too many to list.

Baby squid sushi at Shunka in Costa Mesa // Photo by Brad A. Johnson

What was your very first job?

If we handed you the keys to one of our green RVs right now, where would you drive?

(*important RTN editor’s note: PLEASE take us with you!)

If you had your choice, your last meal on earth would be:

If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring food critics, it’d be:

Originally published at blog.roadtripnation.com, this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Roadtrip Nation is empowering people everywhere to build livelihoods around their interests. Learn more at: http://roadtripnation.com