A Baltimore native, Chef John Shields is often called the “Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay." He has written four popular cookbooks on the cuisine of the region: The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook; The Chesapeake Bay Crab Cookbook; Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields, and The New Chesapeake Kitchen. John hosted two highly acclaimed PBS cooking shows: Chesapeake Bay Cooking and Coastal Cooking with John Shields, has been a featured guest for many public events and his interviews and articles have appeared in major publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
As a young boy John honed his culinary skills along-side his grandmother Gertie Cleary in a Baltimore church hall kitchen but his professional career began completely by accident.
“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 aspired to become a rock star and after studying at the Peabody Conservatory of Music he moved to Cape Cod to play piano in a popular inn. One night the chef was injured, and the inn’s owner asked John to help in the kitchen. After preparing and rolling out 36 pie crusts a culinary rock star was born instead.
John's Grandmother Gertrude
In the 1980s, John moved to Northern California, where he joined the New American Food revolution in Berkeley’s famed “gourmet ghetto,” alongside culinary luminaries like Alice Waters and Bruce Aidells. Missing the food of his youth, John opened his own restaurant, named it for his grandmother, and introduced San Francisco Bay residents to the wonderful regional fare of the Chesapeake Bay.
Since then, John has devoted his career and life to celebrating and protecting the Chesapeake and in 1998 he moved back to Baltimore to open his award-winning restaurant: Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen at the Baltimore Museum of Art. His mission
has always been to support and rebuild the local food economy by promoting healthy, local, bay and body friendly food that brings us all to a “common table.” And his latest book, the New Chesapeake Kitchen is a mix of cooking, philosophy, lifestyle, and education, and is what guides his most recent outreach projects.
In 2021 John started, Our Common Table, a non-profit which supports and creates initiatives and partnerships that engage communities to experience, learn about and protect the bounty of the Chesapeake region. Currently he hosts “Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table,” a free, live stream cooking show, a collaboration between Our Common Table and the Harford County Public Library System. Each episode demonstrates several recipes highlighting our region’s food artisans, growers, and producers. The one-hour show features John with invited guests, and is co-hosted by the library CEO, Mary Hastler. Now in its second season the show has gained in popularity, is viewed by thousands of participants and planning for season three is underway.
Whether engaging the youth of Baltimore City to adapt a healthy lifestyle, starting a scholarship fund through the Baltimore Community Foundation and CollegeBound, or delighting the patrons of his restaurant, John is a champion of all things Chesapeake. The region’s seafood, agriculture, recreation, culture, and cuisine are unique and a decline in one area affects all the others. He believes that we can all play our part to conserve and restore our regional Chesapeake food economy.
"John Shields has done an amazing job showing us how to preserve the traditions of the region while also respecting the environment around us—he understands how important it is to maintain our local food economies so that future generations can also know the beauty and the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay." —José Andrés, Chef/Owner, ThinkFoodGroup & minibar by José Andrés
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From the Press
Dr. Carla Hayden Joins March 16 'Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table.' Librarian of Congress joins Chef John Shields and Mary Hastler on the program, which focuses on 'Women's History Month, a Culinary Journey.'
‘Chesapeake Farm & Bay to Table’ Wants to Throw a Dinner Party on Your Screen
Sacrilegious Or Just Economical? Famous Maryland Chef Adds Tofu To His Crab Cakes