Chef James Allen graduated at the top of his class from Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, Minn. and continued his training at Chez Hans, a Michelin-recognized restaurant in Cashel, Ireland. While in Ireland he learned the importance of supporting local farmers and the impact it has on his menu. He continues this local approach at the Blackthorn Club by incorporating area farms like Ziegenwald Dairies, JEM Farms, R&D Farms, Seeds to Substance Farms and Rain Crow Farms.
After his international training, Chef Allen returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., and his time spent there allowed him to hone his skills and move up the ladder in some of the city’s finest kitchens. While a Sous Chef at Restaurant G in Birmingham; Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley and L.L. Cool J requested that Chef Allen cook for them on a regular basis.
After serving as the Executive Chef of Tupelo (Miss.) Country Club, Chef Allen moved to Tennessee and has spent the last nine years as the Executive Chef of the Blackthorn Club at The Ridges. During that time, he achieved the designation of Certified Executive Chef from the American Culinary Federation, making him the only CEC in the Tri-Cities (Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol) area. Chef Allen was also recognized in the 2018 Class of “40 Under 40” by the local Business Journal.
Chef Allen welcomes the challenges and enjoys the rewards of being the Executive Chef of the Blackthorn Club. The cultivation of relationships with members and their families is one of the things he likes best about having a limited audience. The challenge of constantly offering creative and exciting dishes is another aspect of what he loves about getting paid to “play with his food.”