John Shields

John Shields
Did you know?

John Shields studied music, with aspirations of becoming a rock star. His career path changed when he subbed for an injured friend in a Cape Cod restaurant kitchen.

John Shields
John's Featured Recipe
Gertie’s Crab Cakes

Click here for recipe

John Shields, chef and food writer, is host of the PBS television show Coastal Cooking with John Shields.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, John's  culinary 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 used the seasonal ingredients available in the Chesapeake Bay area.

His more formal career began somewhat by accident. After studying at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, John moved to Cape Cod to play in piano bars while following his aspirations of becoming a rock star. One day an injured friend asked John to work his shift in the kitchen of a popular Cape Cod inn, and he was hooked.

In the 1980s, John moved to northern California, where he joined the food revolution taking place at that time. After working at A La Carte in Berkeley, he opened his own restaurant, named it for his grandmother, and began to introduce San Francisco Bay area residents to the regional American fare of the Chesapeake Bay. Gertie’s Chesapeake Bay Café was located in Berkeley’s famous “gourmet ghetto,” where culinary stars such as Alice Waters, Jonathan Waxman, and Jeremiah Tower were reinventing American cooking.

Nearly two decades, and many, many crab cakes, later, John made his way back to Baltimore, where he now lives. He owns and operates an award-winning restaurant, Gertrude’s at the Baltimore Museum of Art, clearly still paying homage to his grandmother.

John is the author of three award-winning cookbooks on the cuisine of Chesapeake Bay: The Chesapeake Bay Cookbook; The Chesapeake Bay Crab Cookbook; and Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields.


In 1998 PBS began airing John’s series Chesapeake Bay Cooking, and is currently airing John’s show, Coastal Cooking with John Shields.

John’s writings have appeared in several national publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Coastal Living, Southern Living, and Esquire. He is a frequent guest chef on radio and television, and he teaches classes around the country.

Currently, he writes a column for the monthly magazine, baltimore eats, and contributes to the quarterly, Edible Chesapeake. He is an active member of several community and professional organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance, Slow Food, and the Chefs’ Collaborative.

Latest Recipes

Pastry Dough for a Single-Crust Pie

Many people are intimidated by making pie crust from scratch, but they don't have to be. Making homemade pie dough only requires a few pantry ingredients, and it can come together in almost no time at all. This recipe for Pastry Dough for a Single-Crust Pie makes enough dough for one pie, but you can easily double this recipe to make a second crust. There are two secrets to tender, flaky pie crust don't use too much water, and don't over-mix the dough. Once you master your technique, this pie crust with shortening will be your new go-to recipe for holiday baking.

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Crab Imperial, Baltimore Style

Here is the piece de resistance of Chesapeake Bay blue Crab dishes. Basically, an imperial is a richly spiced crab casserole that is served in individual portions. It is reserved for the most special of family occasions and is the showpiece selection at fine Chesapeake dinnerhouses. Restaurant reputations are often madeand unmadeon the basis of their success with this dish. Want to start a fight? Ask two or more Marylander how to make the best crab imperial. The answer is a matter of fierce family pride and, in most cases, involves a recipe passed through countless, generations. After several such scuffles, I arrived at the version of the fabled preparation.

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Gertie’s Crab Cakes

Gertie Cleary hailed from Baltimore’s Greenmount Avenue and her cooking was legendary throughout St. Ann’s parish and northeast Baltimore...

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Tartar Sauce

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Oyster Roast

No matter what season you visit Rock Hall, Maryland, people are cooking up the finest Chesapeake seafood. During the cold winter months ...

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Maryland Panfried Chicken

You”ll have no trouble getting people to the table with this one. In fact, it”ll take a lot of shooing to keep them out of the kitchen w...

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Chesapeake Bay Seafood Stew

During the eighteenth century, French cuisine was the order of the day in Annapolis, Maryland, which then was considered the cosmopolitan...

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Fish Stock

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Kent County Corn Pudding

During summer harvest the corn from Kent County is the sweetest imaginable. I enjoy nothing better than eating it lightly cooked and righ...

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Southern Green Beans

While I’m a fan of tender young green beans that have been steamed or slightly blanched and dressed with nothing more than a squeeze of f...

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Country Ham and Fried Green Tomatoes with Cream

This St. Mary’s County breakfast features some of the best eating country life has to offer. After cooking the ham and tomatoes, don’t cl...

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Sweet Potato Pie

This is just one of the desserts served at the Saint Ann”s Church Hall Fish Fry. It reflects the rich Southern heritage of the Chesapeake...

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Cookbooks, etc

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