Chef Jonathan Waxman, the culinary icon, talks desserts, food trends and Top Chef


Chef Jonathan Waxman is a culinary icon. Recently, he chatted with FoodSided about his restaurant’s desserts, food trends and the social media influences on chefs.

Food fans known Chef Jonathan Waxman. The renowned, award winning chef has been a force in the culinary world. The James Beard award winning chef has evolved from the forerunner of California cuisine to culinary icon for foodies across the globe. Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of dining in one of his several restaurants, his culinary influence has probably impacted some part of your food experience.

As chefs have become more recognized, foodies and television fans recognize Chef Waxman from his appearances on Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. His laid back personality is balanced by his exquisite cooking. If you ever have a chance to savor his roasted chicken, it is meal that will be etched in your food memories.

Even the humble home cook can be inspired by Chef Waxman’s recipes, techniques and cooking philosophies. The cookbook author has always been a proponent of incorporating fresh, seasonal ingredients into his recipes. Of course strong cooking fundamentals are key, but quality ingredients can elevate a dish even more.

Photos from the Mayfield – Brezza Cucina/Jonathan Waxman event, Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Atlanta. (John Amis/AP Images for Mayfield Creamery)

Recently, Jonathan Waxman partnered with Mayfield Creamery on two special desserts for his Atlanta restaurant Brezza Cucina. Located in an old, historic Sears distribution center, this restaurant blends Italian cuisine with Waxman’s Californian influences and a little Southern inspiration. With these two new recipes on the Brezza Cucina menu, Chef Waxman sat down to talk with me about these desserts, his cooking philosophies and what’s on the horizon for him.

Cristine Struble (CS): Currently, you partnered with Mayfield Creamery on dessert recipes for your Atlanta Restaurant, Brezza Cucina, why are these desserts the perfect sweet ending to a meal?

Jonathan Waxman (JW): When planning my summer menu, I knew I wanted to take classic Southern recipes folks in Atlanta would love, but with a twist. It’s what I do with my current menu at Brezza Cucina: it still incorporates my strong Italian roots, while incorporating bold, southern flavors. I loved the unique, Southern flavors Mayfield offered, which inspired me to put our own spin on traditional desserts. Who better to create Southern desserts with than an ice cream brands that has a genuine southern homemade taste families have loved and trusted since 1923. Mayfield allowed me to get creative and I was inspired to create a Fudge Swirl with Mayfield Smoky Mountain Fudge, crushed peanut brittle, blackberries and caramel cream and a Fontana with Mayfield Summer Berry Swirl, whipped cream, crushed shortbread cookies, sliced strawberries and milk chocolate drizzle.

Photos from the Mayfield – Brezza Cucina/Jonathan Waxman event, Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Atlanta. (John Amis/AP Images for Mayfield Creamery)

CS: Can the home cook recreate a similar recipe using the Mayfield Creamery ice cream?

JW: Absolutely! We’re sharing the recipe and they’ll be available through Labor Day at Brezza Cucina. Look for the yellow cartons of Mayfield at Publix, Kroger and WalMart stores in Atlanta and create a delicious Southern twist with your favorite flavor – it will be hard to pick just one!

CS: Some chefs believe that a meal isn’t complete without a sweet ending while other chefs prefer a more savory ending (like a cheese plate), do you have a preference?

JW: I must admit I love both! And why not. I think that cheese is so good for you and delicious after a main course. And there are so new cheeses available now. Followed up by a simple dessert. Heaven!

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CS: Chef Waxman, you are known for blending classic cooking techniques with fresh, local Ingredients, why do you think your cooking philosophy have remained so relevant, and even revered, over the years?

JW: As I ‘mature’ in the food world, what strikes me is that people are getting hungrier! And as they pursue their food passions, I think my ideas of family, rustic cooking, grilling and being seasonal appeals even more than ever. Farmer’s markets, grocery stores are all pushing the seasonal and local idea to new heights.

CS: As a professional chef, you know how to source fresh, local ingredients, what advice would you give the home cook for finding delicious, seasonal ingredients?

JW: Let’s take Thanksgiving. In my youth, canned was the norm, now we have heritage turkeys, heirloom carrots, turnips, we have amazing squash, etc. Stuffing is now a great debate, I love that! You have artisanal bread, cultured butter, sea salt, etc. These simple but elegant ingredients all combine to make our Thanksgiving a much better meal than my youth.

CS: When conceptualizing a new menu item, where do you draw your inspiration? Is it a food memory, particular ingredient or maybe a song?

JW: Music is ever on my mind. I love all genres, but my go to is jazz, classical, great rock n roll. I also clear my mind of the past. I love to get inspired by the market. I wander around listening to Bill Withers and view what is in the veg section, what cheeses might be available, what is in the meat and fish department. I then get an espresso on ice and go back and pick out what looked amazing. Then I go home and but on the Rolling Stones (loud!) just start cooking; the ideas just seem to pour out of fingers.

CS: For many aspiring chefs, it seems that it is more and more important to get exposure on competition shows like Top Chef. As a former Top Chef Master competitor and occasional Top Chef judge, why do you think that this cooking show resonates with both foodies and professional chefs?

JW: It is genuine. The judges, the contestants and the production are all the best. No one component is lacking. The show mixes great food with the heat of competition, plus the wonderful backdrop of great settings.

Jonathan Waxman at Brezza Cucina, photo provided by Mayfield Creamery

CS: Do chefs need the name recognition to have a successful career and/or business?

JW: It is fact that social media, TV puts people in your restaurants. Also, it keeps me current. Lastly, I enjoy the exposure, I love when folks come up to me and tell me how much they like what I do, it is embarrassing but edifying!

CS: You have been a force in the culinary world with successful restaurants, popular cookbooks and many awards and accolades; do you have new projects on the horizon?

JW: I am opening a new place in Los Angeles, hopefully by January next year. I have two new books that could exist fairly soon as well.

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As a foodie, and humble home cook, my conversation with Jonathan Waxman was truly a special one for me and I thank him for taking the time to speak with me. While my chicken dishes might not be as legendary as his, I can’t wait to try his Mayfield Ice cream dessert recipes.

Check back to see my attempt at the Mayfield Summer Berry Swirl and Mayfield Smoky Mountain Fudge Swirl recipes. There is a pint of fresh berries from my local farmer’s market that is ready for these recipes. No matter what happens in the kitchen, it will be a sweet ending to this special food memory.