Learn to make a special dish during a virtual cooking class with Chef JJ Johnson

Cooking at home has become one of our favorite pastimes, but sometimes we can all use a little inspiration – and we have just the thing: a virtual cooking class led by award-winning chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author JJ Johnson.

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The renowned chef’s Harlem restaurant, FIELDTRIP, is open for delivery and takeout while simultaneously supporting frontline healthcare workers in the battle against COVID-19, as well as children and their families in shelters. In this online culinary demo, he shows you how to make his savory seafood gumbo.


Recorded live in FIELDTRIP’s kitchen, Chef JJ guides home cooks through each step of this surprisingly simple and fun process, from creating a perfect roux to tasting the final product.


“This is a recipe to do at home, so you can get the kids cooking too,” he says. “It’s also a way to show off on date night.”


According to Chef JJ, the roux is the essence of a gumbo. Once you get that right, you can substitute any protein you have on hand to customize your dish. “Gumbo is just a foundation of flavor,” he explains. “If you can’t eat shellfish, you can make a chicken gumbo, turkey gumbo, or even use ground beef.”


Whatever you flavor your gumbo with, the mantra remains the same: take your time. “The key to gumbo is slow and low,” he says. “And all you need is one pot, so whoever is the dishwasher that night will be happy.”


Chef JJ also highlighted the wide support he's received from across the country that helps him give back to his community.


“Here at FIELDTRIP we’ve been feeding frontline workers with the support of contributions from all over the country for the last three weeks for hospitals in Upper Manhattan, Harlem, and the Bronx,” he explains. “We’re partnering with Mastercard, because Mastercard is also supporting small businesses just like FIELDTRIP, alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to help fight COVID-19.”



Chef JJ’s Seafood Gumbo


Makes 4 to 6 servings 

PREP TIME: 20 minutes 

COOKING TIME: 1 hour 25 minutes 

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 45 minutes 



4 tablespoons salted butter  

¼ cup vegetable oil  

½ cup all-purpose flour  

1 cup minced onion  

4 cloves garlic, minced  

¼ cup minced celery  

½ cup minced red bell pepper  

½ cup grape tomatoes, halved 

½ cup whole dried shrimp pepper 

¾ cup Gumbo Spice Mix (below)  

1 tablespoon tomato paste 

5 cups chicken stock 

1 cup okra cut into rounds 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 

½ cup Chinese chicken sausage 

½ lb scallops 

1 cup whole fresh Gulf shrimp 

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cups cooked jasmine rice


*Seafood can be swapped for other protein, and any other vegetables you have on hand.



In a heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Once the butter begins to bubble slightly, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to form a smooth paste. 


Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes to make a chocolate colored roux. While the roux cooks, make sure to stir continuously, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to avoid burning. It is important to keep a very close eye on the roux during this step. The roux can go from a complex nutty color and aroma to burnt beyond repair in a matter of minutes. 


After the roux turns from a smooth peanut butter color and consistency to one resembling rich chocolate, add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and tomatoes; this will stop the roux from overcooking and burning. 


Lower the heat and cook the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the dried shrimp, spice mix, and tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. 


Slowly whisk in the stock and stir until the stock is completely blended with the roux and vegetable mixture. Add the okra, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sausage, scallops, and shrimp and let simmer for about 1 hour over very low heat, stirring occasionally with the wooden spoon. 


Season the gumbo to taste with salt and pepper and serve over the rice. 


Chef JJ’s Kitchen Tips: The roux is at the heart of every delicious gumbo made. It is important not to rush the roux making process. Watch it closely and let the flavors develop at the proper time. 


Gumbo Spice Mix 


Makes about 2/3 cup



1 tablespoon dried oregano 

1 tablespoon dried thyme 

1 teaspoon powdered bay leaf 

1½ tablespoons garlic powder 

1 tablespoon onion powder 

½ teaspoon red chile flakes, or more to taste 

½ teaspoon ground cayenne, or more to taste 

2 tablespoons sugar 

2 tablespoons smoked paprika 

1 tablespoon kosher salt 

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 



Stir together and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.