At the party called “Cheers & Beers!” celebrating Chef Joseph Lenn’s 10 years at Blackberry Farm were, from left, Chef Lenn; Joe Cunningham, another Blackberry alum who is opening a restaurant across the street from Three Rivers Market; and Matt Gallaher, chef owner of Knox Mason.
The biggest question among Knoxville foodies? Where is Chef Joseph Lenn’s new restaurant going to be?
As you may have seen in the News Sentinel (click here), Chef Lenn, who has been at Blackberry Farm for 10 years and has been executive chef at The Barn there since 2007, announced his resignation about a month ago. His last night was Friday. He will be replaced by Blackberry’s executive sous chef, Cassidee Dabney.
But the most intriguing part of this turn of events is that Chef Lenn also announced he will open a restaurant in the Knoxville area. I happened to be at Blackberry a few weeks ago, and I told him rumors were swirling in Knoxville about where his new eatery might be located. “That’s the most frequently asked question I get,” he laughed. I told him that one story is that it will be in Happy Holler. “Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?” he asked coyly. “I live in downtown Knoxville, so it would be a good thing for me!” I said. But he wasn’t talking.
He also wasn’t talking last Sunday at a party in his honor held at the downtown Knoxville Public House. In fact, he circulated a sign-up sheet asking for folks’ email addresses. Here’s what the sheet said at the top. “Name: To be determined. Location: We’ll let you know. Opening: These things take time…” Ha! He’s playing it for all it’s worth. Good for him.
Other speculation at the party was that it could be next door to the Public House. And some thought it might be in the former Patrick Sullivan’s pub in the Old City. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
This news is the cause of so much discussion because Chef Lenn, a Knoxville native who attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, was the 2013 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southeast. He is the first chef from Tennessee to win this distinction.
Chef Lenn’s mother, Emily Lenn, left, with Sharon and Allan Benton of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams.
Jerry Lenn, left, is Joseph’s father. With him is Joseph’s uncle, Doug Sparks.
Betty Sue Sparks with Alan Carmichael. The two were classmates at Fulton High School.
Kathryn Powell-Lenn, Chef Joseph’s wife, right, with Mallorie and Eddie Mendence. She is with Blackberry Farm’s marketing department.
Jen Mowrer and Killian Dalloz of Knox Mason. He also is formerly of Blackberry Farm.
It was wall-to-wall at Knoxville Public House.
Joseph Lenn, left, chats with News Sentinel Food Editor Mary Constantine and her friend, Matt Graveline.
A big spread of food helped folks cope with the craft beers that were flowing.
My favorite: Reuben croquettes, if you can believe it.
Joseph Lenn with Dan Moder, the fiance of Cassidee Dabney who is taking Lenn’s place at Blackberry Farm.
Steve and Becky Hancock. She’s executive director of the Tennessee Theatre.
Robert and Mack Allen. He is the executive chef at Lenoir City’s Citico, who recently moved here from Austin. He will be in charge of the next Trust Fall dinner coming up on Sunday.
Jason and Chrissy Newton Brooks.
Todd and Rachel Sparks.
Bernadette and Gary Doyle, the original innkeepers at Blackberry Farm.
From left, Andrea May, Dan Rule, Katy and Brett Richardson.
John and Carla Hawkinson. They run the equestrian program at Blackberry Farm.
From left, Jen Mowrer, Jerica Simpson, Matt Mowrer and Ty Pattison.
From left, Charlotte Tolley, Amy Hubbard and Andrew Hock.
From left, Matt Mowrer; Trevor Stockton, the executive chef at RT Lodge, and Todd Sparks.