Life often demands a choice between quality and quantity. But Sam Johnson’s catering company — Gourmet to your Doorstep — brings heaping helpings of both. Johnson frequently serves up outsize portions of Italian, Caribbean, and American cuisines. The Trenton-based chef delivers his multinational menu throughout central New Jersey, but learning his trade has taken him around the world.
Johnson’s journey began when he left his native Nigeria for Belgium, where he enrolled in flight school. But when rising fees grounded the would-be pilot, he changed routes. He became the kitchen aide at an upscale Brussels restaurant, where the demanding French chef recruited him as an apprentice.
Johnson mastered French cuisine, but he longed for a change of scenery. He came to the United States, landing a chef job at Atlanta’s international airport before becoming sous chef at the city’s Marriot Marquis Hotel. His next test would be the high standards of Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino.
Shining there led him to several other kitchens, including those of the New Brunswick Hyatt, Kingston’s Main Street Bakery, and Merrill Lynch’s corporate headquarters. He cooked for two New Jersey governors and two state assemblymen, but his career’s most taxing turn had yet to come.
After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Johnson drove straight to New York. He joined the staff of Nino’s Restaurant — a Canal Street fixture that had become a soup kitchen for firemen, police officers and volunteers — and soon became executive chef, serving 7,000 meals per day.
Grateful Ground Zero rescuers, who had previously subsisted on hot dogs and hamburgers, eagerly awaited Johnson’s chicken Marsala and pasta primavera. “I could see the smiles on their faces,” he says.
Johnson returned to New Jersey with a desire to help those in need. So he brought his culinary talent to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, where he supervises the kitchen staff. He still makes meals from scratch and serves thousands each day. But for the first time in years, the veteran restaurateur has some time on his hands.
Gourmet to Your Doorstep can be reached at (609) 346-0318. They offer a range of catering options, including:
Fruit Cocktail Platter
Price: $70 (meat), $60 (vegetable)