Bistro’s chef named one of the best in U.S.
by LUCIE R. WILLSIE, Associate Editor
Feb 03, 2013 | 1447 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bald Headed Bistro
CHEF WILLIAM “BICK” JOHNSON, executive chef at the Bald Headed Bistro since 2004, has just been named as one of the Best Chefs in all of the United States in a tabletop book due to come out in March. Submitted photo
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Warm and inviting.

Cozy and comforting.

Yet with an elegant, sophisticated air ...

Walking into the Bald Headed Bistro is like being transported ...

Like being taken into another world.

Like being taken into a world of opulence yet, at the same time, making guests feel right at home.

And, although known for its delectable cuisine since it opened its doors in 2004, with Executive Chef Williams “Bick” Johnson Bald Headed Bistro’s being this top-end restaurant’s executive chef since it opened, Chef Bick now also has been named as one of 2013’s Best Chefs in America in 2013. He has been selected to be included in a book by the editors of “Best Chefs America” after other chefs recommended Chef Bick for the honor.

“The book is regarded as the ultimate reference guide for chefs and is published each year to showcase the top chefs in the United States as selected by their peers,” said Will Jones, chief manager at the Bistro.

The book will be available online, as well as in bookstores as of March. For this year’s edition, more than 5,000 chefs were being considered. In addition, the book will feature information on emerging trends in the restaurant industry, interesting ingredients and culinary events across the U.S.

A native son, Johnson hails from Memphis, but has been all over perfecting his culinary expertise, from Vancouver, Canada, to Seattle, the Caribbean and San Francisco — and back here to Cleveland.

Chef Bick, a graduate of Rhodes College, first thought he would become a teacher, until, that is, he changed his outlook on his career after he sampled the cuisine at a renowned French restaurant.

“I found I had an aptitude for cooking,” he said. “I then forgot about teaching and became an apprentice to a European Master Chef who owned a restaurant in Memphis,” Johnson explained. Johnson worked with the Master Chef for three years.

He learned all the classical dishes, he explained, through on-the-job training, perfecting his skills exponentially.

He quickly worked his way up to sous chef.

“And the rest is history,” he added.

Johnson is now a certified executive chef.

And, in 2004, “Allan Jones asked me to be his head chef at the Bald Headed Bistro,” he said.

The concept of the restaurant was to be a “taste of the West” in decor and fixtures and cuisine.

“I looked at a lot of different dishes and recipes,” Chef Bick said. “Wild game, prime beef, on a wood-fired rotisserie.”

And an expert chef is needed, especially to cook wild game properly. Wild game has to be cooked differently than regular beef, Chef Bick said. Wild game has little fat content and a chef has to be very careful so it doesn’t dry out and remains tender.

“His creativity keeps Bald Headed Bistro patrons coming back again and again,” said Josh Weekley, the Bistro’s vice president and operating member.

“I was surprised by the honor and am very humbled ... I didn’t expect this,” Chef Bick said. “The Bistro has earned a reputation as being one of the nation’s most sophisticated and high-end restaurants, but to be included on this list of the top chefs in America is something I didn’t expect.”

Jones himself picked Johnson after a nationwide search for an executive chef for the then soon to be open Bald Headed Bistro.

Before heading the culinary fare for the Bistro, Johnson was the executive chef at a Caribbean restaurant on the island of Saba in the Dutch West Indies, as well as heading restaurants in British Columbia, Canada; Washington starte; and California. He now also is a member of the American Culinary Federation and is a Chef Rottiseur with the Chaine des Rotisseurs — the oldest culinary organization in the world — of the Chattanooga branch, holding the office of Vice Conseiller Gastronomique.

Since Sept. 2004, Chef Bick, as he is affectionately known by both colleagues and customers alike, has been an integral part of the Bald Headed Bistro’s success, as well as its renown for great cuisine.

“A night at the Bald Headed Bistro is a dining experience unlike any other,” Weekley emphasized, “and Bick deserves a great deal of the credit. Bick works hard to ensure our guests enjoy a full-range of senses, from the unique western ambiance of the Bistro to the elegant dishes.”

The restaurant’s elegant menu infuses the flavors and style of Jackson Hole, Wyo., into a charming Southern setting, according to Weekley. The restaurant’s signature dish is the BHB Filet, a prime tenderloin rubbed with a secret blend of herbs and spices cooked over a hickory, wood-fired rotisserie. The tenderloin is then cut into 6 or 8 ounce portions, placed in a double boiler and cooked to the diner’s individual specifications, and topped with beurre monte just before serving. All beef is USDA Midwestern Beef and aged wet for 28 days.

“Once you taste it,” Weekley said, “you will simply never forget it.”

Some of Chef Bick’s other specialties run the gamut from Smoked Salmon Roulade to North American Elk Tenderloin, Lobster Ravioli to Filet Mignon, Blackened Sashimi Tuna to Ribeye Steak and Roasted Maine Lobster Tail, and so much more.

“It’s a challenge and a joy,” Chef Bick said. “Our standards and unique dishes is what separates us from other steak houses. And we create new specialty items all the time.”

For example, Chef Bick plans on a Chef’s Dinner on May 25 featuring six courses.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Weekley said. “We’re always upgrading our ingredients and the quality of our presentation.”

Jones added: “Our goal is to elevate the standards of our restaurant all the time.”

The Bald Headed Bistro is located at 201 Keith St. in the Village Green Town Center. The restaurant’s reservation number is: 472-6000.