Justin Miller

Winter 2020

Justin attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and San Antonio, TX. He received an Associate’s degree in Applied Science, Culinary Arts and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies, Culinary Management. He worked at CIA in Singapore, Nao and Pho Nguyen in San Antonio and the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Colorado.

Joseph Stinchcomb

Winter 2020

Joseph attended the University of Mississippi where he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science. He serves as the bar director at Sant Leo Restaurant in Oxford, MS and has also worked at Bottletree Bakery and Proud Larry’s in Oxford.

Q & A

How has the Fellows program been so far?

This has been a dream come true. Oxford, where I work is about a town with 50,000 people, including a major D1 University, so without that we’re about 12-13,000 people. It’s a very very small town. To be able to do something like this is a dream come true. The places that are on this list are places that you see on Netflix and Youtube, so the thought that I get to work there is kind of mind-blowing and humbling at the same time.

What are your hopes for participating in the program?

I hope to bring back a lot of knowledge. With this fellowship, hopefully more connections with purveyors, food growers, winemakers locally to see what is going on and bring that back to the restaurant and make it definitely more homegrown and local focused. We are right now, but even more so and really intensely focus on that. The local aspect of what goes on in Mississippi.

What are you most excited about?

To see these places work in action, and also to take back to the kitchen staff techniques that I saw and learned there, and say, “Let’s kind of use this in the way we present food,” to showcase what we have in Mississippi. Same aspect, in food service, telling the servers and waitstaff, bartenders table maintenance, how to properly break down a table in a calm orderly fashion that isn’t noisy.

What has been the most impactful moment so far?

Probably the Larder. We broke down some pigs and made sausage and sobrasada. We also made cheese. That was really cool to see, the sheep’s milk and cow’s milk come in, actually start the cheese process that people use on property which was kind of like, whoa, this stuff is really actually made right here. That was kind of an intense thing to see. This is like as local as it gets. The cheese is made 50 feet from where people are eating and serving it. I worked with garden and livestock, just seeing the garden in action and also cleaning out the chicken coop. You know, that’s part of it. When you have animals, that’s a lot of fun. It’s a far cry from what I do, which is bartending and beverage directing, so cleaning up after animals is not typically what I do on a day to day basis.

Did you have any idea you would be doing these types of things when you were coming here?

No, I didn’t think I would be doing that, which was a pleasant surprise. I thought it would be more classroom focused, like study this then try to implement what we studied into action, but this is more organic, and I think you learn better in a sense in an environment like this, where everyone is willing to help you if you have any questions instead of you reading a textbook then trying to implement what you read. That’s kind of rigid. This is definitely more flexible and fluid, which helps when you work in a restaurant.

What’s your advice to someone who would like to participate in this program?

Have an open mind. Be willing to accept any advice given. Ask questions. Be hungry for knowledge from anyone that can give it to you. Always be hungry and have an empty stomach because you will eat a lot. They feed you well.

Gabriella Valls

Summer 2019

Gabriella attended the Eugene College of Liberal Arts at The New School in New York, NY where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Art Therapy. She also completed the Career Culinary Arts program at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, NY. She worked at Bar Boulud in and Daniel in New York and for Chef Flynn McGarry in New York. She also worked at CASACUBA Cuban Restaurant in Miami, FL.

Q & A

What was the first big milestone during your experience?

As a line cook my main focus has always been on the food we are creating. During my time spent at Frasca Food and Wine, in Boulder Colorado, I was shown that a great restaurant should focus on more than just what’s on the plate. Frasca showed me the true importance of not good but, excellent hospitality. Coming from a Michelin background, I thought I had a good understanding of hospitality at its highest level. But Frasca took a different approach to customer service. It wasn’t so much about the glits and glam or crazy party tricks that where pulled out during the middle of your meal. At fresca, it was about the genuine care and respect for their customers. Little gestures that left a lasting impression, like stepping out of the hostess podium to welcome their guest back, while offering them a complimentary pour of white wine and congratulating them on their kids graduation, as a custom congratulations menu awaited them at their table. They were truly invested in their customers and always made them feel like family. They gave off that same warm and fuzzy feeling you get when entering your mom or grandmothers kitchen, except with better glassware and decor! Frasca taught me the real meaning of true hospitality. I hope one day to open a place that is as welcoming and exceptional.

What piece of advice were you given during your fellowship that you’re keeping with you as you continue to grow?

During my time spent at Daniel in NYC, I was given a lot of advice from Chef Jean Francois, Chef Eddy Leroux and Chef Daniel Boulud. I worked with Daniel Boulud and Dinex Group for about 3 years. Chef Daniel Boulud once told me something that I still keep close to my heart. He told me that a true chef should never stop learning, even if they’ve been in the business for years. While some might think it's old school mentally, Chef Daniel says that you aren't a true chef till you've been working in the kitchen for at least 10 years. I rather like that idea, and it's changed the way I operate.

Tell us about something that happened, whether it was just during your travels or during one of your work experiences, that you’ll never forget.

The experience I had at Blackberry Farm is something I’ll never forget. I got to get my hands dirty in so many different jobs on the farm. I mean, I spent an entire day making cheese! And yes, all my friends were pretty jealous of that adventure! It was such a cool experience being able to look into all the roles that everyone plays at Blackberry. One day I got to work with the butchers and the next, I learned how to make some pretty fine jam with the fellas over at the Preserve kitchen. I spent some time in the kitchen and with the wine team, I even spent time with the housekeeping department and perfected my bed making skills… okay well not perfected, but tried at least. It was an unforgettable two weeks.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame during this experience?

I’ve always worked back of the house, so serving and being on the floor was naturally something that I felt intimidated by. Luckily I was always placed in great hands and was eased into every situation. As a cook, it was the portion of the program I learned the most from. Something that stuck with me is the philosophy taught to me at Eleven Madison Park. “Do everything with a purpose” from the way you hold each glass or fold each napkin, to the way you stand and walk through the dinning room. This idea leaves very little room for error. It’s something that I try to apply while working in the kitchen today.

What is your advice for future Sam Beall Fellows?

Take the time to notice what makes each restaurant so different. What is each restaurants approach to food and their customers? Where do they source produce from? How many covers do they do a night? What is the mood and tone of the dinning room? Is it a place you’d return too often? Then truly think about what it is that makes each one special to you. It’ll help you decide what your next steps should be. For me, it helped me be confident in deciding what kind of restaurant I’d like to open in the future.

John Schlicting

Summer 2019

John attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY where he received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, Culinary Arts Management. He worked as a sommelier in The Barn at Blackberry Farm® and now works as a sommelier in the Dogwood at Blackberry Farm®.

Q & A

What was the first big milestone during your experience?

My first big milestone during the Sam Beall fellows experience was walking into the locker room during the pre-dawn hours for my first day at the French Laundry. I knew the restaurant. I had heard Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson talk about Sam Beall's own time at the French Laundry. I had passed the restaurant multiple times during my time in California, rehearsed the route from my room to the restaurant. I can remember the gravel path and the weight of the door, how small the locker room felt. I was nervous but I had to take a deep breath and walk through the door and get ready for a new experience.

What piece of advice were you given during your fellowship that you’re keeping with you as you continue to grow?

I got amazing advice from all of the places I spent time in during the Sam Beall Fellowship and I was amazed by the openness of the managers and staff to talk honestly with me. The advice that I remember most vividly comes from the team at Eleven Madison Park. I got the chance to talk with Chef de Cuisine Brian Lockwood after service one night, and something that I won’t forget is his advice that all you can control is what your own restaurant is doing. Also, from General Manager Sueyoung Jo and Assistant General Manager Andrew Chandler I got amazing insight into how Eleven Madison Park focuses on first principles and builds the restaurant’s service plan based on those ideas. It was a great reminder that as important as learning from others, everything that you do has to make sense within your project and that you should focus on your own work, not chasing others.

Tell us about something that happened, whether it was just during your travels or during one of your work experiences, that you’ll never forget.

Some of the experiences that I will never forget come from Frasca food and wine in Boulder. During my time at Frasca, Rose Votta, the general manager, who has worked at Frasca since the day it opened and leads the team that had just won the James Beard award in service! During my time at Frasca, Rose had an attitude that was always ready to improve and better the restaurant. She asked what we were doing at Blackberry Farm. It was amazing to see such an experienced Hospitalian who was searching for ways to make one of the great restaurants in the US even better. Also at Frasca, I had the chance to work with Bobby Stuckey. As someone who has dedicated their career to the dining room, it was inspiring to work on the same floor as him. The focus and awareness that he brought to the team and guests that night has reminded me time and time again since then to try and leave the outside world when i walk into the restaurant and focus on the service that evening. To try and give 100% of my attention to the restaurant and the guest.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame during this experience?

The major challenges that I tried to overcome during my Sam Beall Fellowship was that I tried to stop trying to do and help and instead focus on learning and observing a well run, world class experience. All of these restaurants have achieved monumental accolades and I was blessed to be invited in. It is a skill to be a good stage and shadow, and I got better and better during my time as a fellow. Choosing times to ask questions and enrich my fellowship that also let the employees I was shadowing continue to offer world class service to guests is a balancing act and I hope I did so to the best of my ability.

What is your advice for future Sam Beall Fellows?

My advice for future Sam Beall Fellows is to research the restaurants before you arrive, and come with a list of questions and goals for your time at each restaurant. Although it seems long, each stage was over before I knew it. Another piece of advice is to think back at what Sam Beall got out of the experiences that the Fellowship hopes to mirror. Sam took his experiences and used them to shape what became Blackberry Farm. Take the systems and moments that spoke to you from each of the places you shadow and use them to build your own perfect restaurant. And finding the best way to document and organize your thoughts from each experience will not only help remember the details about the restaurants but also all of the amazing people you meet during the fellowship.

Ingrid Hung

Summer 2019

Ingrid attended the University of Pennsylvania where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. Her work experience includes marketing and PR at Coolhaus and Forever 21 in Los Angeles, CA and Make Up For Ever in New York, NY. She has also worked at Vernick Food and Drink in Philadelphia, PA and Esquared Hospitality and Union Square Hospitality Group in New York.

Q & A

What was the first big milestone during your experience?

Working on the hot line at Meadowood in St. Helena, California. I was only grilling bread, but I thought “Oh my god, I’m cooking something that will be served in the dining room of a Michelin 3-star restaurant!”

What piece of advice were you given during your fellowship that you’re keeping with you as you continue to grow?

It wasn’t technically a conversation but more like some personal advice Joseph Lenn, the chef and proprietor of J.C. Holdway in Knoxville, gave me. It was a bulletpointed list of things that helped him get to where he is today, like “sweat the details,” “never burn bridges,” “you can never learn everything” and “surround yourself with people more talented than yourself.”

Tell us about something that happened, whether it was just during your travels or during one of your work experiences, that you’ll never forget.

Something that will always put a smile on my face were the Friday nights I spent at Blackberry Farm Brewery, when I’d go with Blackberry team members for happy hour. By my last time there, after only a couple of weeks, I felt like I knew everyone there. I will remember that feeling of community forever.

What was biggest challenge you overcame during this experience?

Embracing the unknown. I had seven first days at new restaurants and, each time, I had to get to know seven new teams. Almost every day, I’d be doing something completely new to me, but by the end, I became much more confident and comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What is your advice for future Sam Beall Fellows?

You’re only going to get out as much as you put in. So, lean into what is uncomfortable and push yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Even if I was exhausted from travel, I’d allow myself one night to settle in to the new place, then I forced myself to go out and explore.

Lindsay Fitzgerald

Winter 2019

Lindsay attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY where she received an Associate’s degree in Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Culinary Arts Management. She currently works as a Sous Chef at The Barn at Blackberry Farm®. She has also worked at The Glass Onion in Falmouth, MA, The Conservatory Restaurant in St. Helena, CA and The Bocuse Restaurant in Hyde Park, NY.

Q & A

What was the first big milestone during your experience?

Working at The French Laundry, meeting Danny Meyer, as he is NYC restaurant royalty, and going to Williams Selyem Winery in Healdsburg, California.

What piece of advice were you given during your fellowship that you’re keeping with you as you continue to grow?

I was chatting with David Breedan, who is the chef de cuisine at The French Laundry, when I mentioned that I was nervous because it was my first time in a Michelin 3-star restaurant. He told me not to be because the three Michelin stars shouldn’t matter as long as you operate at a high level. They would still be doing what they are doing if they didn’t have them.

Tell us about something that happened, whether it was just during your travels or during one of your work experiences, that you’ll never forget.

When I got to sit in “the box” at The French Laundry, which is essentially the chef’s office that looks out into the kitchen. I got the most special treatment in there: special courses to sample, flipping through special books (several of which I got to take home) and I even met Thomas Keller.

What was biggest challenge you overcame during this experience?

Culture shock in New York City! It was so different than the other destinations (Tennessee, California and Colorado) I visited during the program. It took me two weeks to take the subway, I couldn’t believe how busy Manhattan’s Trader Joe’s was, and I even got stuck at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park in the rain! I was just a bit out of my comfort zone there.

What is your advice for future Sam Beall Fellows?

Do as much as possible. Explore as much as you can during your free time. Ask questions, and remember you are not on stage, and you will not be treated like you are.

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