Chefs Johanne Killeen And George Germon
The partnership of chefs Johanne Killeen and George Germon is a rare occurrence in the culinary world. They have been cooking together since 1975 and opened their first restaurant, Al Forno, on January 2, 1980 in Providence, Rhode Island.
From the very beginning, Johanne and George have made culinary history, receiving nearly every honor, award, and public recognition for their original, innovative cuisine. Among the many accolades, Al Forno was named the "World's Best Restaurant" for casual dining by the International Herald Tribune. The continuous success and longevity of Al Forno and their stellar position in the culinary world can be attributed to the creativity and dynamism that results from their unique partnership.Al Forno, which literally means "from the oven," was inspired by the opulence and style of Northern Italian cuisine, which makes extensive use of wood-burning ovens and open-flame grills. Johanne and George gained notoriety for their new, creative dishes, especially the grilled pizzas, George's invention.
Often imitated but never duplicated, Al Forno's pizza remains a signature dish. Over the past 21 years, they have captured the culinary world's attention with their use of the freshest ingredients, their oven-baked pasta dishes, high-heat roasted vegetable combinations fragrant with garlic, olive oil, Mediterranean herbs, and their superb made-to-order desserts. Three years ago, Johanne and George brought Al Forno to Café Louis in Boston, adding the creative contributions of David Reynoso, Café Louis' Chef de Cuisine.It was and remains creativity that brought and keeps the two chefs together, although initially, their artistic mediums did not involve food. They met while studying art at the Rhode Island School of Design where Johanne was pursuing a career in photography and George was focused on sculpture, architecture and television production. Each lived and traveled in Italy after graduating and it was during that time that they discovered independently the magic of Italian cuisine. Back in Providence they began their professional careers quite by chance in the same restaurant. At that moment their common interest in food, Italy, and art drew them together. Together to this day, they continue to combine their talents. In both of their restaurants, one can see the reflection of their training in fine arts through the design of their restaurants' interiors as well as in the creative presentation of their dishes.As Johanne explains: "For us, our restaurants are like an art project that keeps evolving. The kitchen is our studio, and the food we cook is like a canvas that is continually being repainted, changed, and refined. Food is eaten the way art is perceived; it is digested and recorded. Given the right circumstances, a connection is made and communication takes place, which is what art is all about." In each restaurant, the couple's emphasis on aesthetics is readily evident. They are meticulous in their sense of style, from the food through the whole environment. Additionally, their homes in Little Compton and in Pawtuxet Village, Rhode Island have been featured for their unique beauty in Metropolitan Home Magazine."It's all about the complete quality of the experience," said George. "For a meal to be a success, it's not only about great soup to nuts but about the lighting, the stone on the floors, the color and patina on the walls, and the little details that express your personality. Everything has to work together." Indeed they do.While both Johanne and George work together in designing their restaurants, George takes the lead in the architectural and interior planning. As a consummate designer he has created everything from the interior and exterior of both of their restaurants, to the design of new restaurants for his peers, to demonstration kitchens, through lighting fixtures and exquisite display cases for home and commercial decoration.
The couple has appeared on numerous television shows. They were featured on the show "In Julia Child's Kitchen with Master Chefs" where George demonstrated grilling Dirty Steak, one of his specialties. For another of her series, "Baking With Julia," Johanne demonstrated her Baby Cakes: Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Baby Cakes; Rose Geranium Upside-Down Cake; and Gingerbread Baby Cakes." Each of their recipes were published in the companion books for each series. They appeared on "Martha Stewart Living" where they grilled pizza. Their pizza was also featured on David Rosengarten's "Grilling" show and the couple joined Sarah Moulton as her guests on her show, "Cooking Live Primetime." Most recently, they returned to Martha Stewart Living to demonstrate more signature pasta and dessert recipes.Praise and awards both by the press and in the culinary world have been lavished upon them. Al Forno has been given Conde Nast Traveler's "Distinguished Restaurants of North America" award every year since 1992 and Nation's Restaurant News "Hall of Fame Award." Johanne was recognized as one of the top twenty women chefs in the country by USA Today (she is also a founder of The International Association of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs). Food and Wine cited the couple among The Ten Best Chefs in America and the James Beard Foundation has named them "Rising Stars of America," "Great Regional Chefs" and "Best Chef in the Northeast." For the third year in a row, the James Beard Foundation has nominated Al Forno for outstanding restaurant. Additionally, their peers have recognized them with the prestigious "Ivy Award."In 1999 the restaurant was the recipient of a very special award given by the Italian Ministries of Agriculture and of Foreign Trade, "Insegna del Ristorante Italiano," granted to select Italian restaurants abroad. In the same year, Johanne and George received Honorary Doctorates in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University. Johanne and George have a commitment to share their techniques with beginning and novice chefs. In 2000, the International Association of Culinary Professionals recognized this commitment by naming them Scholars-in-Residence. Graduates from their kitchen include Susan Goin, chef/owner of Lucques in Los Angeles, Eric Moshier and Loren Falsone of Empire in Providence; Wylie Dufresne of 71 Clinton Fresh Foods in New York City, Ken Oringer of Clio in Boston and Karen Densmore of Truc in Boston. They have taught at such distinguished venues as DeGustibus (Macy's in New York City), Bristol Farms, Draeger's and Fetzer Vineyards in California, and La Varenne in West Virginia. In Italy, they teach regularly at the Capezzana Estate in Tuscany, and the Hotel Cipriani in Venice. They have also conducted classes for Seabourn Cruise Lines in Asia and the Mediterranean.The couple believes in giving back to the community. They have been actively involved in such charities as The Providence Public Library, The Rhode Island Food Bank, Rhode Island Project Aids and the Rhode Island Ballet. In 1991, Killeen and Germon wrote a cookbook, CUCINA SIMPATICA: Robust Trattoria Cooking , published by HarperCollins, NYC. The book catalogues their romance with quality ingredients, and their acute instinct and skill in creating meals that enhance the fine flavor of each ingredient. The recipes in CUCINA SIMPATICA are based on the dishes served at Al Forno. The couple is currently working on a second cookbook.