Johannes Bacher is the Chef/Owner of Johannes Restaurant in Palm Springs. Known as the “Eclectic Chef,” Johannes was born and raised in the small mountain village of Koessen in Tirol, Austria. Inspired by his mother, he began making cookies and cakes for friends and neighbors at the age of seven before receiving his formal training. Johannes has received hundreds of awards from national and international media including Bon Appetit, Restaurant Writers association, Zagat, Wine Spectator, Alaskan Airlines, Elle magazine, Out and About, Travel and Leisure, Open Table, and The New York Times.
Johannes, I’ve been a fan of yours since I first discovered your cooking at the St. James Restaurant in Palm Springs. I then followed you when you opened your eponymous restaurant on Indian Canyon, and you’ve remained one of my favorite chefs in the Desert! Tell us how you first discovered your passion for creating amazing and creative cuisine.
I discovered my passion through my mother when I was seven years old and was inspired to start baking cookies and cakes. At the age of eleven I started working in restaurants during my school holidays. My father believed that we should take responsibility at a very young age and I trained myself to discover I had a passion for cooking. After discovering I had a passion for food, I worked in the best restaurant in my hometown of Koessen in Tirol, Austria, and after finishing high school enrolled in culinary school. After finishing my apprenticeship at the age of 18 I traveled the world–I worked on a cruise ship and for Seabourn, then I worked for a private yacht and then came to Palm Springs.
That’s quite a journey! And what led you to leave The St. James and open your own restaurant? (Do you remember the poem I wrote for you to celebrate the opening of Johannes. I believe you had it hanging in the restaurant for quite a while!) Please tell us a little about the decision to open your own restaurant.
I remember the poem very well, Kate, and it was absolutely beautiful! I left St. James and decided to open up my own restaurant where I did not have to report to anyone and could create my own recipes and be my own boss. After making the decision that I would not work for anyone else, I opened Johannes Restaurant.
And we’re glad you did! Johannes, you were born in Austria, and have lived throughout Europe. What brought you to the United States, and specifically Palm Springs?
After working in restaurants for so many years I got tired and burned out and decided to open a fitness studio in Vienna–that became the biggest fitness studio in Austria. This was the only fitness center ever to have a full-size restaurant and bar. I wanted to check out fitness studios in Los Angeles and that brought me to the United States and eventually Palm Springs.
And what is it about Palm Springs that led you to make your home and restaurant here?
I visited Palm Springs and loved the scenery and the weather and decided this is where I would work–and eventually opened my own restaurant now 13 years ago.
What would you say is the biggest difference between cooking for Americans vs. Europeans?
Europeans like to linger and enjoy their dining experience with smaller portions of food where Americans rush through the dining experience and like larger portions.
Luckily there are so many hiking trails, swimming pools and fitness centers in Palm Springs! Johannes, when you’re not sourcing or creating fabulous food for the lucky denizens of and visitors to Palm Springs, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy going to the gym, riding my bicycle, reading, hiking and all the great things there are to experience here in the desert. Although, I don’t golf–I only caddy!
What upcoming Palm Springs area project or event are you most excited about?
Celebrating the 13th Anniversary of opening Johannes Restaurant and creating a new ambiance in the restaurant for the new season.
Congratulations to you! Please share with us some of your favorite restaurants (other than your own!), retail stores and hot spots to enjoy in Palm Springs.
There are so many great restaurants in the desert and I enjoy dining and experiencing all the best the desert has to offer. For grocery shopping, I love Jensen’s and Trader Joe’s, and as far as retail I usually shop at Saks 5th Avenue and Macy’s.
And what is it that you love most about Palm Springs?
What I love most about Palm Springs is the weather and the small town feel where you can relax, you can walk and everything is close by.
Johannes, thank you for speaking with me today and congratulations on 13 years of creating fine dining in beautiful Palm Springs!