Cooks at Home: Johnette Isham
Saturdays for Johnette Isham are spent at the Downtown Bradenton Farmers’ Market, scooping up fresh basil from Brenda the Emotional Gardener and jars of hometown honey from Pure Florida Apiary.
The executive director of Realize Bradenton (a nonprofit that promotes the city’s cultural attractions) is a true champion of local businesses, whether she is working at the office, experimenting in the kitchen, or shopping on Old Main Street.
“I constantly test new recipes by integrating ingredients from the market,” Isham says. “I’m passionate about food because cooking is my outlet for relaxation.”
In her multi-generational Bradenton home, Isham lives with her husband and 94-year-old father. The historic, Craftsman-style, energy-efficient residence in the Point Pleasant neighborhood is a five-minute walk to the market and three minutes from Isham’s office.
Each morning at 5:30 a.m., Isham enjoys a peanut butter toast breakfast with her father, who makes the daily coffee in a percolator from the 1950s. Isham then heads off to work at the creativity incubator that is Realize Bradenton.
“All my staffare ‘foodie’ millennials, so we’re always talking about food and sharing recipes,” Isham says. “We love to eat together.”
Together they also coordinate 75 events as well as a slew of online and in-print promotions. The organization is currently aiming to attract millennials to live, work, and play in downtown Bradenton.
“From our community conversations, we know that so many creatives of the younger generation want to live downtown and are really interested in socializing around great fun, food, and music,” Isham says.
Isham has always found a way to incorporate her love of food into her professional life. She was previously an artist-administrator at Rhode Island School of Design (where she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design) and oversaw the college’s culinary arts program. There, she handled the food tasting for all of the chef applicants and was responsible for integrating the arts into the curriculum.
These days, her culinary-mindedness is more directed at keeping the food and arts scene lively in Bradenton, and doing some creative cooking in her off hours. She also has an extensive home garden full of indigenous plants, herbs, and butterflies.
“Due to my schedule, my fun cooking happens on Sundays when I can experiment and drink a glass or two of wine while I cook,” Isham says. “So every Sunday is a new gourmet adventure.”
That adventure is brought to Isham’s family by her beloved farmers’ market vendors—from the freshly baked bread at Sugar Cubed to the garlic cloves from Geraldson Community Farm and the salmon filets from Anna D’s Seafood. Within each recipe is a little bit of Isham’s passion for taste and, of course, for her town.