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Johnny Iuzzini is back as head judge for Season 2 of Top Chef Just Desserts. One of the country's most celebrated and innovative pastry chefs, his interest in the pastry arts began at the age of 17 when he started working at The River Café in Brooklyn, New York. Although his primary responsibility at the restaurant was in garde-manger, Johnny frequently visited the pastry kitchen to marvel as Pastry Chef Eric Gouteyron piped chocolate butterflies. As Johnny's fascination with pastry grew, he began assisting Chef Eric after completing his regular shifts in the kitchen. Johnny eventually moved to pastry full-time, cementing his desire to pursue a career as a pastry chef.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Johnny joined the pastry department of the original Daniel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Over the next three and a half years, he mastered all of the dessert stations and became Pastry Chef Francois Payard's right-hand man. When Chef Francois launched his eponymous pastry shop in the summer of 1997, Johnny joined the opening team and was named Sous Chef. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Europe where he apprenticed in some of France's finest patisseries, including the famed Ladurée in Paris. He also completed an intensive two-week chocolate course at L'Ecole DGF du Chocolat et Patisserie.
In the Fall of 1998, Johnny returned to the US for the debut of Café Boulud and then moved to the 65th Street location of the new Daniel for its opening. Johnny was named Executive Sous Chef for the new restaurant and held that position for two years under Executive Pastry Chef Thomas Haas. During that time, Comite Colbert named Johnny one of its "Emerging Young Artists of 2000."
In January 2001, Chef Daniel Boulud promoted Johnny to Executive Pastry Chef. Shortly after his rise to top job, Where Magazine awarded Johnny’s desserts "Best in NY 2001."
In May of 2002, Chef/Owner Jean Georges Vongerichten named Johnny the Executive Pastry Chef at his famed four star name-sake, Restaurant Jean Georges, as well as its café, Nougatine. With this move, Johnny achieved much success. In November, 2002, he was awarded the title of “Best New Pastry Chef” by New York Magazine; in April 2003, he was nominated for “Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year” by the prestigious James Beard Foundation; and in June of that year, he was named one of the “10 Best Pastry Chefs in America” by Pastry Art and Design Magazine, an honor he received in 2004 as well.
In June 2005, Johnny joined Jean Georges in the opening of his newest restaurant, Perry Street. Johnny assumed the role of Executive Pastry Chef for this restaurant in addition to his responsibilities at Restaurant Jean Georges and Nougatine. Perry Street earned three stars from The New York Times. In November, Restaurant Jean Georges earned its most prestigious award to date, three Michelin stars. It was one of only four restaurants in New York City to receive this honor.
In May 2006, The James Beard Foundation awarded Johnny "Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year."
Johnny's first cookbook, Dessert Fourplay, was published in 2008.