Chef JJ Johnson believes Pepsi’s Dig In Las Vegas residency is a game changer, interview

Pepsi Dig In Chef JJ Johnson, photo provided by Pepsi
Pepsi Dig In Chef JJ Johnson, photo provided by Pepsi /

When Pepsi announced its Dig In Las Vegas residency program, many people took notice. Although the dining options in the vibrant city are many, there is room to add more diversity to the scene. As the first chef to kick off the Pepsi Dig In residency program, Chef JJ Johnson of New York City’s FIELDTRIP is embracing this opportunity. More importantly, it could be the spark to push forward a dining evolution.

Recently, FoodSided spoke with Chef JJ Johnson regarding his Pepsi partnership. When asked about this opportunity, he candidly said, “we can think of all the great culinary talent in Las Vegas. From David Chang to Michael Mina, they all have to come Las Vegas, the culinary juggernaut of the world. The city has the best of the best, where you can get everything and anything. It is saying that you have made it.”

In New York City, Chef JJ has a strong clientele base. While those guests happily walk through the door time and time again, this opportunity is different. It expands his audience more broadly. Beyond the diners seeking him out, it is the guest who is looking to try a new experience or hungry to satisfy that food curiosity.

With this Las Vegas opportunity, the hope is to not just have people sit at that one table but also have them bring the experience back home. Whether it is a better understanding regarding how rice connects culture or recalling the nuance of a great ox tail dish, the reality is that one meal can leave a lasting impression.

For Chef JJ, this opportunity is more than just exposing Las Vegas diner to West African flavors or a dish that might not be found on the hotel buffet. The conversation is just the beginning.

Chef JJ shared, “the greatest thing about food is that it connects people and tells stories. It breaks down barriers.”

He went onto explain, “the reason why the slogan at FIELDTRIP is rice is culture because we believe that everybody has a rice culture.” As people gain a better understanding of that connection, it fosters more conversations both around and beyond the table.

As the residency program begins, Chef JJ believes that the program can fill a space in the Las Vegas culinary scene. Beyond the buffets and other names, the chefs coming through the Pepsi Dig In program can be both that familiar and unfamiliar addition to the culinary diversity. Whether people will seek out these chefs for the particular food offering or because of their connection to the Pepsi Dig In program, the most important thing is that guests choose to sit at the table.

Although this program’s timing is finite, it could open the doors to a more diverse look to the chef-driven restaurants. It does not always need to be a big splash to start a ripple of change.

For anyone in Las Vegas, Chef JJ Johnson has brought his menu to the Pepsi Dig In residency program at Mandalay Bay’s Libertine Social and Luxor’s Public House for a limited time. Additional chefs will continue the program through the end of 2022 and into 2023.

Chef JJ Johnson is the chef and founder of FIELDTRIP, a fast casual restaurant. His Las Vegas pop-up menu will include his signature braised ox tails.

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