Chef Stephenson moved to South Florida at the age of 20 and was hired on as Chef De Cuisine by Miami's celebrity Chef Mark Milletello. He worked by Executive Chef Mike Sabin (Corporate Executive Chef for Miami's Myles Restaurant Group) side for 3 years, and was voted one of the best young chefs under 30. This led to an invitation to the James Beard House in New York in December of 1999. Eventually, James decided to relocate to San Diego, where not only would he be introduced to new ingredients, but he would also be living in beautiful Southern California weather.
James sought out the Cohn Restaurant Group and has worked with them for the past 13 years. James is currently the Managing Partner and Executive Chef of the Cohn's unique culinary venture, The Gaslamp Strip Club – A Steak Place. This grill-your-own steak and cocktail lounge has received numerous awards including the Gold Medallion Award for Best Casual Steakhouse, as well as Favorite Restaurant by the Gaslamp Quarter Association.
In May 2014, James opened the Cohn's first restaurant venture in Los Angeles County, BO-beau kitchen + rooftap. The 13,722 square foot two-story space boasts a downstairs main dining room and an open air "rooftap" deck. BO-beau's dining room menu features California-style French cuisine with global influences. The upstairs rooftap offers a casual beer garden atmosphere with 50 beers on tap, picnic-table seating and "beer infused" eats.
James' favorite aspect of being a chef is being able to experiment with the freshest and newest ingredients, allowing him to constantly learn and grow as a chef. James also teaches cooking classes to the public, mentors local San Diego High School students, and serves on the Executive Committee for the Gaslamp Quarter Association Board of Directors as Vice Chair. When asked what he would like to do in the future, James replied, "Well, retire, of course; but I would love to continue teaching cooking lessons." Chef Stephenson feels very fortunate to be given the opportunity to create such great restaurant concepts with such a respectable company.