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Culinary Guests

Swine and Dine Chefs

Swine and Dine 2011 will feature a meal prepared by Sean Brock and Joseph Lenn.
It’s will be nothing less than awesome.

Sean Brock, Executive Chef McCrady’s and Husk

Many chefs have their first exposure to cooking at a young age. For Sean Brock, who was born and raised in rural Virginia, it was the experience of his family growing their own food that left a deep impression. “This was a coal-field town with no restaurants,” he explains. “You grew and cooked your own food, so I really saw food in its true form. You cook all day, and when you’re not cooking, you’re preserving.” These were the building blocks that Brock remembered as he began building his career as a chef.

Leaving Virginia to attend school, Brock landed at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC. He began his professional career as chef tournant under Chef Robert Carter at the Mobil Four-Star/AAA Four-Diamond Peninsula Grill in Charleston. After two years at Peninsula Grill, Brock was executive sous chef under Chef Walter Bundy of Lemaire Restaurant at the AAA Five-Diamond Award/ Mobil Five-Star Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA. His success in Richmond led to his promotion within the Elite Hospitality Group in 2003 to executive chef at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, TN. Brock spent just under three years fine tuning his craft in Nashville before accepting a position as executive chef at McCrady’s Restaurant. Shortly after his return to Charleston, Brock began the development of a 2.5-acre farm on Wadmalaw Island. “While I was growing there, I began dabbling in resurrecting and growing crops that were at risk of extinction, such as those indigenous to this area pre-Civil War,” he says. These experiments have led Brock to become a passionate advocate for seed preservation and he continues to grow a number of heirloom crops, including James Island Red Corn (aka “Jimmy Red”), from which he makes grits, Flint Corn, Benne Seed, Rice Peas, Sea Island Red Peas, and several varieties of Farro.

Today, Brock maintains a 1.5-acre parcel of land on Thornhill Farm in McClellanville, SC, where he continues to plant heirloom seeds and cultivate new crops. Thornhill is also the home of a 100-acre farm utilized by Our Local Foods and Adaptive Gardens of the Lowcountry, which are run by Maria Baldwin and supply fresh, local, organic produce to the public and some restaurants via its community-supported agriculture program. “The majority of the produce we cook at McCrady’s comes from this farm,” Brock notes.

Working with local purveyors and vendors has had a great impact on Brock’s cooking. “Gone are the days of a chef sitting in the kitchen creating recipes and then picking up the phone to order food from wherever it needs to come from,” he says. “At McCrady’s, for example, we might get three suckling pigs, three whole lambs, half a cow, and upwards of 450 pounds of fish, as well as mountains of vegetables. We only take it when it’s ready, so it shows up and we have to start piecing the recipes together; it’s like a game of Jenga.”

Drawing from his early education, the chef also pickles, cans, and makes preserves from the produce that cannot be used immediately, saving it for a later date and for new creations. Brock pulls from his memory of ingredients and their flavor profiles to create McCrady’s menu depending on what is delivered to the kitchen. It’s a modern approach to cooking that comes from a pure appreciation of the food itself. The results are constantly changing offerings for McCrady’s diners that always surprise. “At McCrady’s, we emphasize the importance of the food from the Lowcountry region and constantly refine our cooking processes to best honor our relationships with the farmers, artisans and fishermen that provide us with their amazing products,” he says.

Brock’s abilities have resulted in a number of awards and accolades, both locally and nationally. He was nominated in 2008 and 2009 for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award, and in 2009 and 2010 nominated for the James Beard “Best Chef Southeast” award, winning the award in 2010. He has twice cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and was the winner of the “Next Great Chef” episode of the “Food Network Challenge.” In December 2010, Chef Brock appeared on “Iron Chef America,” taking on Michael Symon in “Battle Pork Fat.” In addition to his kitchen duties, Brock maintains a blog for McCrady’s at www.seanbrock. and regularly posts on Twitter about the food coming in to his kitchen. When he does carve out free time, he’s often at his home just outside of Charleston, which he shares with his three dogs and his wife, Tonya, to whom he proposed while cooking at the James Beard House. Over the past year, Chef Brock completed a full-sleeve tattoo on his arm depicting, of course, his favorite vegetables, including Jimmy Red Corn.



Follow Sean on Twitter


Joseph Lenn, Executive Chef of The Barn

“Live and cook simply. Eat grandly.”
–Joseph Lenn

Joseph Lenn, Executive Chef of The Barn, leads his culinary team in providing the Foothills Cuisine for which Blackberry has come to be known.  In 2011, Chef Lenn was honored to recieve the title of Grand Chef by the prestigious Relais and Chateaux organization as well as the recent nod by Food & Wine as one of the top upcoming New Chefs.

Joseph’s team prepares beautifully served multi-course menus, inspired by seasonal, farm-fresh products and produce, grown just a few feet away from The Barn in the gardens. A carefully relocated bank barn from the 1800s, The Barn is a visually grand setting in which to relish the earthy delicacies of our bakery, butchery, salumaria, creamery, and 8,000-square-foot wine cellar

Joseph is thrilled to have the opportunity to work in such a location in which the gardens and farm products of the Farmstead are available to him every day.

Inspired by his mother and grandmother from a young age, Joseph sought a career in the culinary world. His training started in the butcher shop at a local independent grocery store of his Tennessee hometown.  Quality ingredients were of the utmost importance there, and Chef Lenn learned that the best food comes from the best product.  This thought led Joseph to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina where he was able to hone his skills in the kitchen.

During his time in culinary school, Joseph completed an internship at Blackberry Farm. Joseph returned to Charleston to work at the Peninsula Grill with Chef Bob Carter while he finished school.  Three years later, Joseph assisted Chef Sean Brock in opening The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, where he worked for two years honing his creative talent.  During this time, his deep love for east Tennessee brought him back to Blackberry Farm again and again, assisting in cooking schools and special events.

Joseph joined the Blackberry Farm team in 2005 as Sous Chef, and in 2007 reopened the Main House Restaurant as Chef de Cuisine. Blackberry Farm was named a Relais Gourmand restaurant in 2005 and has been praised for its culinary, farming, and wine programs in Food Arts, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Zagat and Wine Spectator.


Blackberry Farm

Follow Joseph on Twitter


BaconFest Bar Food and Corsair Artisan Spirits Chefs

Saturday Chefs

BaconFest Bar Food and Corsair Artisan Spirits on Saturday at the Public House will also be nothing less than awesome. Chefs Holly Hambright, Matt Gallaher, Staton Webster, and Ben and Amy Willis-Becker will be celebrating bacon and the traditions of preservation.

Holly Hambright

“I’m so Old School, I’m New School”

Holly Hambright’s reason for choosing the culinary field at first was strictly financial. Floundering at the University of Tennessee in a field of low demand and high competition (music), she felt her vocational time clock ticking and believed that at 22, had only a short time to rethink her professional direction.

She had experienced two seasons cooking at a large summer camp on Watts Bar Lake. A gourmet’s nightmare yes, but to hear an 8 year old exclaim that Holly’s spaghetti was better than his mom’s was at that time inspirational for her plus, the hard work and instant gratification of providing one of the most basic needs for people was very satisfying. Believing she had found her calling, Holly left UT to attend Baltimore’s Culinary Arts Institute graduating #1 in her class in 1983. In 1998 she completed graduate studies at the School for American Chefs in St. Helena, California with Madeline Kamman.

Holly has held the positions of Executive Pastry Chef, Executive Sous Chef and Executive Chef in various luxury hotels in Baltimore, Washington, DC, Boston, and Bermuda feeding such notables as Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand, Mrs. Anwar Sadat, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Barry Tuckwell, Barbara Bush, Lamar Alexander, the Gipsy Kings, Neil Diamond, Christopher Plummer and Presidents Ford and Clinton. Over the years, Holly developed a playful and creative culinary style blending her Southern heritage and classic technique into memorable, boldly flavored comestibles.

Holly has learned (and forgotten) much over the past28 years but the main takeaway is that one will never be “just a chef.” It’s not just the long hours spent cooking and being a technician because there is so much more to it. The opportunity to share her knowledge and experience, the vision to inspire and achieve common goals, to promote the profession by developing and promoting her staff has brought Holly to the understanding that one “gets” what one “gives”.

Matt Gallaher

Chef, Tennessee Executive Residence
Touring Band Chef, Kings of Leon

Matt is the current Chef for Governor Haslam at the Executive Residence in Nashville AND the Touring Chef for the Tennessee-based rock band Kings of Leon. Matt grew up in a restaurant family in East Knox County and began working in his mother’s restaurant and catering company from the age of nine. The family garden supplied the restaurant with fresh vegetables, herbs and pickles and Matt developed an appreciation for the provenance of raw ingredients. He used skills learned in the family business in various Knoxville restaurants to help pay for college.

In 2001, after completing his coursework in Chemical Engineering at UT, Matt accepted a Sous Chef position with Holly Hambright at Lord Lindsey Catering, a position he held for two years. To further his interest in fine dining he joined the Blackberry Farm culinary team in 2003 under Executive Chef John Fleer. Blackberry’s gardens and signature “Foothills Cuisine” fostered his appreciation for the Farm to Table philosophy.

After four years, including a year as Sous Chef, Matt accepted a Touring Chef position with Dega Catering. Over the last four years he has traveled the US, Canada and Europe cooking for acts as diverse as Neil Young, Eagles, Tim McGraw and, of course, Kings of Leon. As 2011 comes to an end, including a tour in South Africa and Australia, Matt will make a full-time transition into his role at the Executive Residence and an opportunity to reconnect to the Farm to Table ideal.

Stanton Webster

Stanton Webster was born and raised on a Certified and Accredited Polled Hereford Beef Farm in Smith County, Tennessee. With family farms in Carthage, Chestnut Mound and Enigma, Tennessee, Stanton learned at an early age the value of hard work and GREAT TENNESSEE Agricultural Products.

As a McClanahan Scholar at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Stanton continued his agricultural pursuits by studying Animal Science & Rural Sociology and Economics. After working for several years in the hospitality business, Stanton returned to University to pursue a degree in Classics with a focus on Bronze Age Mediterranean Archaelogy. While living and working on a dig in Crete, Stanton met his wonderful wife Adrienne and also learned that a future in archaeology was not for him.

Returning to Knoxville, Stanton has continued to work with food, specifically focusing on locally owned restaurants and catering operations. Stanton and Adrienne currently reside in an 1890’s Victorian in the Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood where they are happily raising their beautiful daughter Sophia Estelle.

Ben and Amy Willis-Becker

Harry’s Delicatessen, Knoxville Tn

Ben and Amy Willis-Becker are Knoxville natives who after years in the food business decided to attend culinary school at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. After receiving their degree in Culinary Arts they moved to Portland, Oregon to live and cook. Amy worked for James Beard award nominee Claire Archibald at Café Azul a Oaxacan restaurant and Ben worked for James Beard award winner Greg Higgins at Higgins, known for its seasonal northwest cuisine.

They moved back to the east coast and opened a dinner delivery and catering business, Dinner at Your Door. Ben also went back to New England Culinary and received a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Restaurant Management. From there it was back down south to Asheville, NC where they continued to grow as culinary professionals focusing on management and pastries.

They decided to start a family and move back to Vermont where Ben became an instructor at New England Culinary and Amy was able to stay at home with their son Harry. As an instructor Ben was able to hone his skills as a teacher and Amy was able to focus on providing only home made products and preserving seasonal food for the family.

In 2010 they decided to move home to Knoxville to open Harry’s Delicatessen. Harry’s is a Jewish Italian delicatessen that focuses on sustainability and providing local products while making lasting connections with farmers. They are proud to say that all products are made in house from the freshest ingredients by a fantastic staff.

Baconbits Chef

Rita Cochran

Rita Cochran’s interest in creating food began in the first grade when she read about a peanut butter and pickle sandwich in a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book. Since then she has traveled to cities and towns all over the world learning about food preparation and flavor combinations. Rita has helped develop several concept restaurants, and specializes in simple traditional foods with a modern twist. Currently, her recipes are featured at Public House in Knoxville Tennessee, and her own company Public Food is proud to feature catering using locally grown and hand made foods. Rita can also be found at Ijams Nature Center where she is working on a series of workshops focusing on foraging, edible landscapng, and cheesemaking.

Baconfest 2018

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