Who’s Chef Johnny?

!Hola y Bienvenidos! Hello and Welcome to Mucho Gusto, my name is John Verlinden, but you can call me Johnny for short.

I hope you enjoy your visit and will return again soon. I promise to keep growing the content here, so please return often. And, please become a regular participant in our Latin Food Forum, a place to interact with others interested in this fascinating cuisine and the latest trend in American dining. Ask questions, add your favorite recipes or cooking secrets and comment on those submitted by others.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking — “who’s this funny looking gringo, and what does he know about making Latin food?” Well, all I can say to you skeptics out there is that Julia Child wasn’t French either, and wait until you try my food.

Believe me, as a little boy growing up on a farm in Tipton, Missouri, I never imagined that one day I’d be co-owner of Mucho Gusto Café & Collectibles®, the first Cuban-American restaurant in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts or that later I’d write To Cook is To Love, a cookbook celebrating Latin food. But, when I met Mami Aida, my Cuban born mother-in-law, and tasted her delicious food I was addicted.

Meet me on my profile video from how2heroes

I’ve always liked cooking, and I’ve worked in and around the food business for much of my life. My first job at age 13 was in a little drive-in restaurant in my hometown grilling burgers, mixing milkshakes and dipping soft-serve ice cream cones. Since that time I’ve worked in many different types of restaurants and in every capacity from dishwasher to waiter to bartender to chef to owner. I’m an experienced chef, competent with diverse cuisines and methods of preparation. With Cuban food, I found a special connection.

I wanted to learn how to make those great tasting, totally satisfying Latin dishes myself, and I wanted to understand each of the special ingredients that combined to thrill and delight my taste buds. First, I watched Mami Aida and her mother prepare the traditional dishes, then I volunteered to help, they encouraged me and shared their secrets, soon I was researching, testing and creating recipes on my own and I never looked back. I found Cuba’s cuisine to be rich, deep and diverse — full of international influences from all of the peoples who’ve played a role in her history and complete thanks to the island’s natural bounty of tropical fruits and vegetables. Now, almost 25 years later and after specializing professionally in Cuban-American food for the last 15 years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Like all chefs, I bring my own history, the influences of others whose cooking I enjoy and my own essential culinary point-of-view to my particular brand of Latin food. With Cuban food, the special challenges I saw were how to make these wonderful traditional dishes easier to prepare and healthier to consume without sacrificing any flavor. That project began with the menu in our restaurant, has continued with my personal chef and catering businesses and is featured in my book. My Nuevo Cuban cuisine effectively marries flavors from the past with today’s lighter, healthier ingredients and cooking methods.

In addition to operating Mucho Gusto’s Personal Chef and Consulting businesses, I also teach Latin cooking techniques to both adults and children. And, I’m interested in what’s going on in Cuba today, and am involved in humanitarian activities underway there.