Chef Spotlight: Chef John Mooney of BELL BOOK & CANDLE in Greenwich Village
Chef John Mooney's culinary career began at Kendall Culinary School in Illinois, where he completed his internship working at The Signature Room at the 95th atop Chicago's John Hancock Center. Upon graduation, John worked under celebrated Chefs Gabino Sotelino at nouvelle French restaurant Ambria and Chef Dean Fearing at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. In 1995, John was appointed Sous Chef at Washington D.C.'s high-end restaurant Red Sage, and Asian street food venture RAKU by restaurateur Mark Miller and Chef Randall Warder.
In 1997, John traveled to New York to become the Sous Chef at Tapika restaurant and Michael Jordan's The Steak House, working with Chef David Walzog and the Glazier Restaurant Group. In 1998, he joined the team at the W Hotel New York, working with Drew Nieporent and Chef Michel Nischan to launch the hotel's flagship restaurant, Heartbeat. At Heartbeat, John expanded his interest in seasonal, fresh and organic produce, working as Chef de Cuisine and later as Executive Chef. In 2004, John was named one of the 'Best Hotel Chefs' in the USA by the James Beard Foundation for his work at Heartbeat. Also in 2004, John was appointed corporate consulting Chef of India's luxurious Taj Hotel group. Here, he opened India's first organic restaurant, PURE by Michel Nischan, and re-opened New Delhi's premier fine-dining restaurant, Orient Express.
In 2006, John moved to Dublin, Ireland, where he was appointed executive Chef at the iconic restaurant The Saddle Room in The Shelbourne Hotel. At the end of 2008, John returned to the United States to open Highland Manor in Apopka, Florida, alongside partner Mick O'Sullivan-whom he met at Red Sage.
It is with Mick that he opened Bell Book & Candle in 2010, where he remains Chef/Partner. Bell Book & Candle uses an aeroponic system to grow their vegetables on the roof of their West Village location. BB&C also received the sustainability award from Star Chefs for 2011. John and Mick are currently in the process of building a similar aeroponic rooftop garden on the top of Union Market for Bidwell.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Mooney for our "Chef Spotlight."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
My earliest interest in cooking was when I went to a book fair at my school in second grade. The only book I picked was a cookbook. I think I had more of an interest in eating than cooking at this point.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I've been fortunate to have some great career mentors. My first Chef was a guy named Jack Kennedy, he influenced my career at a very young age. I also still follow the teachings of Dean Fearing, Mark Miller and Drew Neiporent. Great bosses that contributed to my career in different ways.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I've been lucky enough to have traveled the world extensively, so my food is a mixture of many things. As a foundation I'd say the complexity of Mexican food and a love for chilies has been a big influence. Japanese technique and delicacies of Japanese cooking has been an inspiration.
What do you consider the most distinguishing feature of your work as a chef?
The most distinguishing feature of my cuisine is direct source ingredients. The major one being our aeroponic garden that we have on the roof of our restaurants. Responsibly sourced food is the foundation of all menu development.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is something cooked over fire. I love the process of a whole roasted pig or lamb. I also like to have many people around for the feast.
Tell me a little about your restaurant for our readers.
My restaurant is meant to be comfortable and cozy. The menu is designed for people to share. We focus on a neighborhood community and the design has as much renewable or reclaimed resources as possible.
Bell Book & Candle is located at 141 West 10th Street #A, New York, NY 10014. They are open for dinner, weekend brunches, Happy Hour and late night. The restaurant also has private dining. Call them at 212.414.2355 and visit their web site, http://bbandcnyc.com/.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chef John Mooney