"I didn't like to work outside," says the Montgomery County native.
"My father was in construction, and I wasn't real big into hammering nails and breaking my fingers open and all that stuff, so I decided to move into a safer environment and work with knives instead."
Johnny's godfather, a trained chef with his own restaurant, invited the 13-year-old to spend his summers working as a prep cook and cashier.
|Johnny's Eastern Shore Boil|
|Serves 10 to 12|
|4 dozen littleneck clams|
|4 dozen fresh mussels|
|4 pounds 26/30-count shrimp|
|4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks|
|2 pounds red bliss potatoes cut in half|
|4 cobs of corn shucked and cut in thirds|
|2 tablespoons chopped garlic|
|4 tomatoes, diced|
|1 white onion, chopped|
|1 bottle chardonnay|
|4 cups chicken or fish broth|
|1 stick butter|
|2 tablespoons oil|
|2 tablespoons Johnny Mo herb blend No. 1|
|2 tablespoons Blue Crab Bay seasoning or your favorite seafood seasoning|
|salt and pepper, to taste|
|*Johnny Mo's herb blends are available at chefjohnnymo.com|
|**Blue Crab Bay Co. seafood seasoning available at bluecrabbay.com|
|If you have a turkey fryer, that is the best place to make this recipe. If not, then find the biggest pot you can get your hands on. Heat oil and the butter on high. When the butter is melted, add the chicken, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, seafood seasoning and Johnny Mo's herbs. Stir well and cook until the chicken is opaque, the onions are soft and the garlic is golden. Add the clams and mussels and stir well. Next, add the wine, but save a glass to sip on while you cook, then add the broth. Stir well and cover. Bring the pot to a boil and let it boil for about 10 minutes. Now add the corn and the shrimp. These items take the least time to cook, so you're almost done! After about 10 more minutes of cooking, check the shrimp. They should be bright-orange.|
|Finally, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. We try to put this in bowls, but it never makes it out of the pot. People seem to swarm around the pot while I'm cooking and are armed with a fork and half a baguette!|
|This is a great Eastern Shore tradition that has been handed down for years. It is very similar to a New England clam bake but with some shore flair added for a little extra touch. We like to make this out on the deck at my restaurant Mallards at the Wharf in the summer and fall when the harvest season is in full swing. Stop by on any given Sunday in Onancock, Va., to experience this firsthand. See you there!|
"I began to have real love for being in the kitchen and being in the service industry," Johnny says.
He graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 1995 and gained experience by working in restaurants throughout Maryland and New Jersey. The now-Eastern Shore resident owns three food establishments, Mallards Catering & Entertainment, Mallards Sidewalk Cafe and Mallards at the Wharf, and has published two cookbooks, "Rock in the Kitchen" (2007) and "Rock the Party" (2011) -- both of which include a CD featuring original music by Johnny and his band, Quadpod. The recipes featured in his books are simple enough for the average cook. Johnny respects his ingredients and understands flavor combinations. You can get them through mallardsllc.com and contact him via chefjohnnymo.com. If you want to meet him, he'll be hosting the sixth annual Music for the Hungry from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 14 at the Onanock School Grounds in Onanock, Va.
- Joana Suleiman/For The Examiner