Johnny Ciao did not get his start in the culinary world like most chefs who go to culinary school or work in restaurants, but by working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.
Johnny grew up in a small town 50 miles north of New York City and was an avid music lover. After graduating high school and after being accepted to Boston College and Emerson, Johnny decided to jump right into the biz. He hopped into his car and drove to Florida where he began a career in radio. He was the first Caucasian to work in an all-black radio station on the west coast of Florida. He then started to promote rock concerts and compete with some of the biggest promoters in the country. Johnny then moved to Atlanta and a new chapter of his life began. After unsuccessfully promoting jazz in conjunction with the City of Atlanta, Johnny began his own communications firm managing bands and well-known personalities including baseball great Hank Aaron, Music Legend Isaac Hayes and others. Ciao always loved to cook, and his many clients knew that and always wanted Johnny to cook for them.
In the mid-80’s, he produced a book and video called ‘Cooking With Country Music Stars’, that went on to sell close to 1,000,000 copies. It featured recipes from 36 top country music stars from Hank Williams Jr. to Dolly Parton. He also started a company that produced and distributed music videos and eventually opened an office in Beverly Hills. There he continued to consult record and home video companies, and began entertaining business associates, musicians, producers and others at his Hollywood Hills home.
After opening his office in Beverly Hills, he started to consult major record and home video companies. Needing a breath of fresh air (no pun intended), Johnny took up a second residence in San Francisco. Here is when Johnny became more involved with food. He met the late legendary concert promoter Bill Graham who asked him to create some of his Inventive Cuisine Treats for Bay Area luminaries at Graham’s yearly Bammy Awards Show.
During that time, Johnny came in contact with the Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana, Huey Lewis, Buddy Miles, Chris Isaak and many other music greats. He created backstage food and went on to cook for many of these artists one on one in their homes, at recording studios, on the road and wherever.
Johnny then received a phone call that changed his life forever. Pop Star/Music Icon Michael Jackson had collapsed on stage in the Far East while performing. He was weak due to a poor diet and improper eating habits. Johnny was hired to strengthen and change Michael’s diet. He proceeded to move into Neverland Ranch and created healthy, fun and Inventive foods for Michael and his many celebrity guests. It was truly an experience that will last with Johnny for a lifetime!
After improving Michael’s health and re-introducing him to fish and poultry items, Johnny decided it was time to stop representing the interests of others and focus on his own career. He acquired a solid reputation as an articulate culinary artist and went on to work with some of the entertainment industry’s biggest names including Willie Nelson, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Donnie and Marie Osmond, Richard Kind, and many other music, sports and political figures.
After the release of his second book, ‘Koncert Kitchen’, Johnny began appearing on top television and radio programs throughout the world. Some of Johnny’s appearances include the Today Show, Regis, Wayne Brady, Donnie and Marie, several Dick Clark Specials, Entertainment Tonight, VH-1, MTV, BBC, RAI and countless network shows throughout the US and the World. To this day he continues to make appearances promoting his appearances, product line, books and charitable ties.
More recently Ciao has been traveling throughout the world filming an Internet series, where he re-creates dishes indigenous to regions around the globe in his Euro-California style fashion. He also visits cool destinations, and cooks in the oddest of locations with celebrities and musicians.
Johnny also contributes much of his time doing benefits, golf tournaments and other appearances for ALS, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, Chi Chi’s Kids, CROC Alumni, The First Tee, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and many other organizations and schools in need.
Johnny Ciao performs on harmonica while he prepares food at his Famous Blues and Music Buffet Events which have sold out at several House of Blues locations, as well as other top venues across the U.S. and abroad. Well-known Musicians from major groups join Johnny as he presents and prepares a feast of food and music for hundreds of guests.