Joseph Black, the new chef from Chattanooga, believes fresh is best and said he can’t think of a better way to serve Cleveland residents with gourmet dining than by using home-grown produce.
“I’m a big believer in going local with the produce,” Black said. “I like to buy through local farmers. I know they have some great products around here. I think community involvement is key. After all, it is their club, and the more they’re involved the better. We have such a good opportunity around here with all the vegetables. I want to feel around, see what looks good and see what’s growing locally and make the best of that.”
Lamar Mills, general manager and head golf professional, said, “We’re glad to have Joseph here at the club. He’s a talented individual and he’s going to bring a huge skill set to the club. He has a lot of formal training. He likes to use fresh produce from around the area and incorporate it in his menu. I think we’ll be able to showcase some local produce vendors. The club is glad to have him and we welcome him as an addition to the staff.”
Black said he opened his own restaurant a few years ago in his hometown of Ringgold, Ga., but his love for cooking soon took him in a different direction.
“My restaurant was called ‘Farm to Fork,’” he said. “My dad always wanted me to do something in Ringgold. He passed away a couple of years ago. So I started that restaurant, which was a monster task. My intention was to get it up and going then sell it because I didn’t want to be a business owner. I much more enjoy being in the kitchen and being creative. There’s too much to worry about outside the kitchen.”
His restaurant sold faster than he had expected, leaving Black a decision to make regarding his immediate future.
“I’ve traveled to a lot of beach towns and I’ve done a lot of work at the beaches for different companies,” he explained. “I was on my way to do that, because I sold my restaurant rather quickly. A friend of mine recommended I come and talk to the people here, saying it’s a really great place and they could use someone like me. Lamar and I hit it off great. The people here were really nice, so I decided to give it a shot.”
In 2008, Black worked at the Farm Golf and Country Club in Dalton, Ga. It was here where he was inspired to connect his first community with sharing garden fresh vegetables from the club.
“It was really great,” Black said. “We started a garden there and it was really great! We could go down and pick our own vegetables. It wasn’t an extremely big garden. But you could go down and pick your own fresh herbs, lettuce, tomatoes — things to make everyone feel a part of the kitchen. The (golf course) grounds guys looked after it.
“I just wanted everyone to be involved. Membership — if they needed a little bit of fresh herbs, it was OK for them to come by and get some basil or thyme. We had a neighborhood community similar to this (Cleveland), where members lived really close to the club. It was a really nice way to connect with the community around the country club.”
As far as signature recipes are concerned, Black says he takes classic Southern food and “shapes it up a little bit.”
“I add a few more ingredients just to make it more of a dinner cuisine. That’s basically it,” he said. “I love what I do.”
Being a bachelor without any children, the cheerful gourmet chef said he is committed to his job, adding, “I think that’s what it takes to be great. You have to make sacrifices in order to be great. That’s what I’ve chosen.”
Black said he is excited to present the highest quality of food, food service and beverages to the Cleveland Country Club and is looking forward to meeting more local residents who have impressed him with their hospitality.
“Even though I live in Chattanooga, I really never came to Cleveland much,” he admits. “Largely, I was stuck in kitchens for 60 hours a week. But when I got up here it was a new place for me and the people have just been great! That’s one of the reasons I decided to take this on. The people are extremely nice. They’re very open and welcome to change, and look forward to doing some things differently.”
According to Black, his first experience in the restaurant business came in the early 1990s when he and a friend started working at Grady’s Good Times restaurant in Chattanooga.
“I took a real interest in becoming a chef when I was about 26,” he said. “I started focusing on how it all originates, how the recipes got started and the thought process behind it. I decided this was going to be my career at age 27. My first job — they called it Prep 1. It was doing all the soups and cakes. I learned all the basics on that job. I learned how to make salads and dressings. It was a very good learning experience. I’ve been fortunate to travel around and work with various companies — opening up restaurants in Florida and Texas. I got in on the ground floor and learned the operational aspects from the very beginning. I got to see more than just the kitchen.”
After almost two decades in the business, Black is back at doing what he loves most — being a chef who uses the freshest organic produce to delight every member of the family with a rich dining experience.