Chef Joshua Swinney participated in the “Made with Love & Soul” event at the Epicurean Hotel Atlanta. This was a food experience that paired unique dishes with Woodford Reserve Bourbon drinks. Below, Chef Swinney shares more about his personal background and why it’s important to create a community for Black chefs.
Dawn: How was your journey in becoming a chef? Was it traditional or non-traditional?
Chef Swinney: A little bit of both. Before I went and got my college degree, I was already working in the food industry. I started out at a mom and pop, Italian restaurant back home, and also worked in spaces like Chuck-E-Cheese in North Carolina. So I’ve probably done it from hotels to fine dining to high end catering to corporate dining, which I spent the last almost 10 years or so in. I’ve done a little bit of everything, mainly because I had to make money while I was in college. So, of course, I started out in fast food and found my way working in restaurants because that was my passion.
Dawn: So, what type of Chef are you?
Chef Swinney: I guess I’d be more like a new American or southern chef.”
Dawn: How did you organize this event & did you select the people that you wanted to work with?
Chef Swinney: So Woodford Reserve reached out to us because we already was doing work with their counterparts in a Brown-Forman brand. They asked us to come in to help them on this project. They ran the idea by us and we thought it was a great! Chef Shular was a big inspiration to all of us. So we went to Shular to see if we can raise money for his institution. I thought let me reach out to some chefs that I know once they told me the parameters for the event. It makes sense, because what we’re doing is highlighting the Schular Institute, but also paving the way for the next generation of chefs. Not only through the financial blessings that will be contributed to the institution, but also the mentorships that the students will get by participating at this event. We wanted to find chefs that work in different facets of the industry, to really showcase the different skill sets. And also give the students, I guess, the first thoughts up around the lines of what they could do within the field.
Dawn: Share with our readers the importance of the space that you’re cultivating with other chefs around the city of Atlanta, and maybe just the South in general.
Chef Swinney: So Rob started Sincere Fare and we really wanted it to be a place of community, where we could create opportunities for ‘culinarians’ to work together, learn from each other, and also engage with one another. I think, a lot of times, just like in any other field work you have, the majority, which is the other populations of people are racist within our industry. We knew there was a small number of minorities that were in leadership roles or had certain opportunities in the food industry. We wanted to create a brand in which we could highlight not only our skill sets, but also create opportunities for others to. I think the community community piece is the biggest thing like meeting chefs from New York and California and all over the US so hopefully, it expands where we create a network of chefs internationally. Right now, we’re just trying to gauge how we could create opportunities for everybody in the Atlanta market and get some chefs’ names out there that people may not hear about.
Dawn: What’s your general specialty? I know you don’t like to put labels on anything, but what’s the thing that people tend to come to you for or your food style in general?
Chef Swinney: So I don’t have a specialty when it comes to a dish or anything, but as far as what people come to us for is experiences. A lot of my clients come to me and it may be like a special dinner or they’re having some type of gathering but they want something different that they’re not going to find anywhere else. We actually curate our menus to the client’s needs. We don’t have a set standard catering menu. All of our menus are based upon what the client’s preferences are. For example, I had client whose wife loved Jamaican food while he loved Asian food. So for their anniversary we did like an Asian-Caribbean fusion. It was really cool and something different. Of course, both of the cuisines have similarities and certain flavors so we played off of that. We just took the ingredients that we knew to be true to each cuisine and also added what’s true to us in the south. Anytime we do identities we are still incorporating seasonal ingredients and local ingredients into the mix. It’s very fun! It keeps us intrigued and also gives the client just something different.
Dawn: What do you want people to get from this event, considering that you’re partnering with Woodford Reserve?
Chef Swinney: So with this event the chefs talked to me about creating their own menu and I said, “Be true to yourself.” Let’s keep it, you know, let’s showcase our local ingredients and showcase the seasonality of ingredients. But really, it tells a story into who you are, why you do what you do, and tells a story through your food. So for me, my dish is going to look more Southern to start with. But because I’m from the Carolinas we like to smoke, barbecue, and grill. So you will see those aspects and that’s going to play into my dish. But other dishes like Chef India’s — where she’s Trinidadian — it plays into how she is as a chef and tells the story and pays homage to her culture as well.
Dawn: Where can people find you and how they can book you in the future?