Corporate Chef Marc Johnson
An innate artist’s eye and keen business sense, as well as a diverse background in the restaurant industry, has lead Chef Marc Johnson to his current position, serving as Corporate Chef at Red O Restaurants. Before spearheading the kitchens of Red O restaurants, he gleaned experience working in fine-dining establishments in California and Alabama, always relishing the importance of choosing seasonally appropriate ingredients and supporting the community by purchasing from local farms. Johnson often presents unexpected twists and turns on the menu, much like his career path, that ultimately add a distinct dimension to his take on Mexican cuisine.
The Southern California native grew up in a household that viewed the kitchen as a gathering place. But even with food playing such a pivotal role—with many home-cooked meals, holiday dinners, and extended family get-togethers, spearheaded by his father—Johnson’s first creative passion and desire to work with his hands steered him in a different direction of sculpture and metal craft. He attended the University of Arizona in Tucson to attain a degree in that artistic outlet, while also pursuing other interests outside of the kitchen. His greatest discovery during college was his culinary and business ingenuity when he started making big batches of breakfast burritos and selling them to hungry co-eds. Moki’s Open Kitchen, paying homage to Johnson’s childhood nickname, was such a successful endeavor, it covered his rent.
In 2004, with a professional cookery degree in hand from Le Cordon Bleu Pasadena, CA, Johnson joined the line at Studio Restaurant at the Montage Laguna Beach, CA, under acclaimed Chef James Boyce. The experience made an everlasting impression, as the determined young chef not only learned from Boyce to respect the ingredients that went onto the plate, but also how to set high expectations for himself, instill that same sense of personal challenge in those around him, and be his own biggest champion of his ability and overall brand. Boyce encouraged Johnson to seize opportunities when they presented themselves, which included a leap of faith that the next step of his career awaited him in Huntsville, AL, in 2008 as opening chef de cuisine for his mentor’s next restaurant, Cotton Row. Johnson didn’t hesitate to go all in, and Cotton Row gave him the chance to experience a kitchen atmosphere that was a bit more laid back than the quiet yet stimulating environment at Studio. The high expectations and demand for greatness, however, remained as key touch points for both his and the restaurant’s success.
With its two short growing seasons on either side of a hot and long summer, Alabama eventually had Johnson yearning for California’s year-round abundance. In 2010, he moved back to his home state once more and worked at Mastro’s Ocean Club in Newport Beach, CA, serving in a role that had him encouraging those around him to work fast and meticulously while cooking high-quality food at a high volume. He also opened and developed the menus for Oak Grill & Agua Lounge in Newport Beach. Today as Corporate Chef, he brings the culmination of his skills and kitchen philosophy to Red O Restaurants and enjoys working and learning even more from Culinary Director Chef Rick Bayless.
Chef Marc spends time with Rick Bayless and his culinary team in Chicago and also travels annually with Bayless to Mexico.
Outside of work, Johnson enjoys spending time with his wife and twin sons at their home in Ladera Ranch, CA. With many relatives in the area, he loves carrying on the traditions set by his late father of home-cooking for large family gatherings.Back