Samantha Carrie Johnson is a woman of many talents. She attended an agricultural high school in Philadelphia where she was the PA State Champion for Future Farmers of America. She then went on to study film in college, which led to work as an actor, model and then the crown of Miss Pennsylvania USA in 2007.
Food, though, has always been her number one source of happiness. Here, Samantha chatted with me about her life’s passion…
Can you tell me a little about your work and specifically Terra 2 Table?
I’m a Food and Lifestyle Educator, and I’m a cook. Terra 2 Table is a company I started about three years ago. I started out owning a restaurant with my mother, but then I decided that it wasn’t the best thing for me. I didn’t feel like it was a full expression of me and where I could flourish the most.
I had studied abroad in Italy during college and still had friends there. So I decided to move to Italy for a little while. When I would go shopping for food I realized that they didn’t sell herbs in little packets or bottles — you had to buy the whole plant. And I thought, “This is amazing!” My mind was blown, but it’s such a basic concept: farm to table.
For me, going green and eating organic food was never a trend, but a lifestyle that I wanted to extend to other people. Terra means earth in Italian and I’ve been figuring out how to manifest that with Terra 2 Table. In this country, we don’t have the same connection to food that we once did. So, I have this platform of talking about food and wellness; being able to grow and cook your food. That’s where it all began. So I’m bringing all the pieces of my life together.
What inspired you to start cooking?
Because of my mother, food has always been in my life. I grew up working in her restaurants and cooking; eating crazy things that kids wouldn’t normally eat. I was that kid in school who had ate the kind of food people would look at and say, “What’s that?!”
I love to travel and food has been a connection to other cultures and my way of being open and aware.
As I’ve gotten older, my food consciousness has also grown. If you’re in a certain economic bracket, you’re limited to eating what is in your immediate environment — which a lot of times, is not fresh food and vegetables. Food desserts exist in this country and I want to create awareness of that.
What does your typical day look like?
I don’t have a typical day. I’m a food educator, but I also model sometimes and I’m a MADE coach on MTV. One day I could be meeting with school districts planning food education events and demos, then the next day I’m just home baking something because I don’t have very much to do.
A couple of months ago I had a meeting with a TV network about hosting my own show. I want to have a platform to talk to people about the things I’m most passionate about — food, travel and agriculture. A lot of opportunities are coming my way, but I’m still growing and learning. I stay open to any experiences and try to be creative with it all.
How has the MTV MADE experience been?
It was an absolutely wonderful experience. It’s great because my background is in film and entertainment. For my first episode, I was in Tampa, FL but this time I was in Iowa. Even though I was born and raised on the East coast, every winter I just don’t want to go outside. So we’ll see how this one went. I love the guys I worked with. I still talk to both of them — we made a real connection.
How would you describe your style?
Since my mom is a chef and my dad is an artist, I’m definitely a creative type. I’m a tomboy/beauty queen — if that even makes sense. I love fashion; structured pieces, classic looks. If I could wear black everyday, I would. Fashion for me is an extension of my personality. Be who are at any given moment of the day.
And I also wear glasses. I like weird glasses. You’ll see my funny looking glasses/goggles in my MADE episode.
Is it easy to find the inspiration for the work you do?
It is. For food, I’m inspired by what’s in season. I promote a farm to table lifestyle, so everything I cook is seasonal. Also, life is inspiring — every day. It might sound cliché, but it’s true. If I’m doing a demo, I know what ingredients I’m using, but I freestyle from there. I’ll make a soup if it’s cold out and switch to a quick plan B if it happens to be warm.
My cooking demonstrations at Williams-Sonoma promote Republic of Promise, which is a non-profit geared toward creative wellness programs — mental wellness, physical wellness and food consciousness. I came up with the idea after I went to Liberia and was inspired by what I saw there. I experienced things that triggered something in me because I was faced with so many layers of life — rebel fighting, child soldiers, 80 year old men being spoken to like they were 8 year old boys. It helped me see that I was someone built for service.
How do you live your best life?
For me, living my best life means following my passions, my heart and my innate desire to do what feels best for me. So far, nothing has lead me wrong.
Also, it means being a genuine and open person who helps create a positive life not just for myself, but for other people — then, I’m golden.
P.S. Here’s Samantha with her beautiful (and hilarious!) mom, Angie on her Terra 2 Table web series: