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Categories: 2024 Seasoned in Service, FOOD & DRINK, Seasoned in Service
Showtime Nathaniel Johnson a dishwasher at the Rookery in Macon GA for 15 years. Service industry workers in Georgia

Seasoned in Service:
Nathaniel “Showtime” Johnson
20 years, 15 as a dishwasher at Rookery

Seasoned in Service is a series in our annual Food Issues, celebrating local food service professionals who have been in the business for ten or more years, highlighting their invaluable contributions to our community.

Interviews by Sierra Stark Stevens

Photos by DSTO Moore

When you hear the rallying cry, ‘It’s showtime!’ echo through the kitchen, you instantly recognize the presence of Nathaniel Johnson. His persona is so synonymous with the phrase that few are familiar with his given name – to most, he’s simply known as “Showtime.” At age 66, Showtime has been a fixture in Macon restaurants for 20 years. I had the privilege of working with him  for about five years at Rookery and Dovetail.

Born in Montezuma, Georgia, Showtime came to Macon for lodging in a halfway house. Like many justice-involved individuals, he sought restaurant work upon release. Food service is the second-most common employment type for those who have been incarcerated. It offers a short turnaround between application and start date and many positions don’t require years of experience or training, like bussing tables or washing dishes, yet offer a path forward with on-the-job training in the kitchen or dining room positions with higher pay. Although recidivism rates in the U.S. are among the highest in the world, Showtime was determined to stay out – and he has. “They said I wasn’t going to make it out, but I did. I’m good!” Showtime said.

The road hasn’t always been easy for Showtime. He recently faced an extended hospital stay. But Rookery had his back, he said. He has worked all over downtown, often multiple jobs at once. “It was all alright, but to me, the Rookery is the best,” Showtime stated, “because they treat you with respect. And when I got sick and was in the hospital, I came back and asked for my job back, and they helped me. When nobody else wanted to help me, they opened the door for me. So I’ve been here all them [15] years. I ain’t seen nothing like the Rookery. The rest of ‘em, they say that they’ll help you. But when you really get down and out, The Rookery was always there for you. And I’ll always be there with them.”

Learn more about what makes Showtime tick – and see why he’s one of our most quotable Maconites – below.

When you started in restaurants, were you washing dishes?

I was. I’ve also made salads, worked prep, and made milkshakes, all right here at the Rookery. It was hard at first, but once you get caught on to things, it’s alright.

Anything that you got to do to feed yourself, you got to make sure you make a success out of it. If you ain’t trying, you’re not alive. You’re not looking for nothing. From nothing to nothing to leave nothing. You got to understand, “this is my goal, to achieve what I want to achieve.


And what do you want to achieve?

I have achieved it! 


And what is it? 

Being better at whatever I do. Yeah, I like to be good at what I do.  


I’ve witnessed you with a pile of dishes taller than you are. You get them cleaner, faster, than anyone else I’ve ever seen.

I know! I can do that. I know where everything go, and I don’t have nobody come and tell me, “Hey, we behind on this.” They know I’m gonna stay up on my game because I know what’s going on. You got to memorize where everything goes, what they use the most. A lot of new people don’t understand that it easy.  I don’t care if this whole building is full. It’s easy if you put your mind to it. It’s a mind thing.  But see, a lot of people want to use they phone. The first thing they holler out is, “Ain’t no one man can do all that!” Well, I have done it. Yeah. Still is doing it. I’m good! 


Do you think that’s a difference between young people and seasoned veterans like you ⁠— that you’ve got your mind right? 

If you listen, you can learn. But if you don’t want to listen, you can’t learn nothing.

Anything that you trying to accomplish in life, you got to put an effort to it. Nobody’s going to give you nothing on a silver platter. You got to come to be a man somewhere. And so far, I’ve achieved a lot in life. I got a beautiful wife. I got a nice house. It’s mine. Yes, I thank God for what I got.  


Showtime’s wife, Keke, drives him home from work each day. She walked up while we were concluding the interview.

And I see Keke in the shiny car you bought her.

“Two Lincolns and an F-150,” Keke said, smiling.