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Baltimore, Maryland
United States

The "Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay,"John Shields is a chef, a television host and an author. His popular restaurant, Gertrude's, has been thriving at the Baltimore Museum of Art since 1998. John has written three popular cookbooks and hosted two television series on the cuisine of the region.


Who is this guy?

Chef, author and television personality John Shields is the owner of the celebrated Gertrude's Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

As a small boy in Baltimore, I remember my grandmother’s excitement with each approaching season and the treasures it offered for the table. We would marvel at the first asparagus of the spring, breathe in the sweet, musky fragrance of ripe Eastern Shore melons, and laugh at the antics of feisty blue crabs as they escaped from overflowing bushel baskets.
— John Shields

John is often called the"Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay" as he has written three popular cookbooks on the cuisine of the region: The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook; The Chesapeake Bay Crab Cookbook; and Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields.

His career began informally when, at a very early age, he worked with his grandmother Gertie Cleary in a church hall kitchen. They fixed businessmen’s luncheons and parish fund-raising dinners for dozens to hundreds of guests. Gertie was the perfect teacher.

John’s illustrious professional career began by accident. After studying at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, this Baltimore native moved to Cape Cod with aspirations of becoming a rock star, and played the piano in bars. Then one day an injured friend asked John to work his shift in the kitchen of a popular Cape Cod inn. Little did John know that his first day, spent making 36 pie shells, would evolve into many years as a restaurant chef/owner, author, and host of two national public television series.

John's grandmother Gertrude

John's grandmother Gertrude

In the 1980s, John moved to Northern California, where he joined the New American Food revolution. He was first executive chef at A La Carte, a highly regarded French restaurant in Berkeley. But he missed the food of his youth, so he opened his own restaurant, named it for his grandmother, and began to introduce San Francisco Bay area residents to the wonderful regional American fare of the Chesapeake Bay. Gertie’s Chesapeake Bay Café was located in Berkeley’s famous “gourmet ghetto,” where soon-to-be stars such as Alice Waters, Jonathan Waxman and Jeremiah Tower were reinventing American cooking. Gertie’s quickly gained enormous popularity, and California magazine hailed it as “a shining star in the culinary constellation of Northern California restaurants.”

Many, many crab cakes, later, John made his way back to Baltimore, where he now lives. John’s popular television series Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields, based on the book of that title, has been shown on Public Broadcasting System stations across the nation. For the series, John hit the road, interviewing folks around the Chesapeake region and showing how they prepared their favorite regional dishes. Coastal Cooking with John Shields followed, showing nationwide on PBS. A companion cookbook, Coastal Cooking with John Shields was simultaneously released. The 25th Anniversary Edition of Chesapeake Bay Cooking was released by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2015. In this anniversary edition, John gathered twenty-five years of Chesapeake recipes and added a few from his personal archives.

Now his newest book,  The New Chesapeake Kitchen, which is an impassioned call to embrace new growing, producing, eating and cooking practices that are "Healthy for Bay and Body," will be released by Johns Hopkins University Press in the autumn of 2018. 

John’s writings have appeared in numerous national publications, including The New York Times, the Washington PostCoastal Living, and Southern Living. He is a frequent guest chef on radio and television and at public events. During his appearances, and in his writings, John expresses his passionate convictions about healthy eating and the importance of supporting the growers, producers and food artisans of one’s region. He has spoken before the American Diabetes Association on the importance of promoting a healthier diet to combat what has become a national epidemic.

In 2010 he worked with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center For A Livable Future and appeared in the film "BFED - The Baltimore Food Ecology Documentary."

Partnering with Johns Hopkins University, he hosts an annual five-part kitchen garden series  at Hopkins’ Evergreen Museum and Library. The series includes hands-on gardening workshops in the extensive kitchen garden Gertrude’s staff created on the grounds at Evergreen, with harvesting and cooking demonstrations presented by John.

Every spring and fall, John goes to local elementary schools volunteering as a guest chef for the innovative “Days of Taste” program. During the Days of Taste, inner city students are led to explore the different flavors of healthy food, they take a fun field trip to a local farm, and are shown how to prepare a fresh salad from local ingredients. He narrated the video promoting Days of Taste .

John is a member of many important community organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental group dedicated to protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding wetlands. He’s also active in a variety of professional organizations, including the International Association of Culinary ProfessionalsSlow Food USA, the American Institute of Wine and Food, and the Chefs’ Collaborative, which promotes sustainable agriculture through use of indigenous foods and local suppliers.