Our profile this month features Atlanta’s Ansley Golf Club. At the end of this year, J. Kevin Walker, CMC, will retire, and his current Executive Sous Chef, Shannon Farmer, will take his place as Ansley’s Executive Chef.
In writing this article—my first cover feature for C+RC—I knew it’d be challenging to do these two chefs’ stories justice.
I wanted to make sure I thoroughly celebrated Walker’s career. He’s an incredibly accomplished chef with decades of experience that can hardly be summed up in one article.
Walker continually strives to learn and improve throughout his success. And he’s known to go out of his way to aid and support those around him. He’s been a leader and a mentor to many over the years, including his soon-to-be successor.
“That means more to me than anything else,” Walker tells me, “that I’ve been able to pay forward what other people have taught me.”
Farmer, who Walker says is now “perfectly positioned” to begin her first Executive Chef post, will take all she’s learned throughout her career, from Walker and her 10 years at Ansley, and make this role her own.
I found Farmer’s story inspiring. She took a leap of faith mid-career, changing paths to one she knew she was suited for. Then she worked her way up.
In learning about her, it’s clear that Farmer has earned this title. I believe it’s also worth noting—and celebrating—that she did so as a woman in a field that’s still largely male-dominated.
She’ll soon be the first Executive Chef in Ansley’s history who’s a woman and, as far as she knows, the first in the history of any major club in Atlanta.
In addition to being a talented Chef, Farmer sets an example of what an effective leader can look like. Among her strengths, she’s known for being open, compassionate and empathetic.
“I can read people well,” she notes. “I can sense when they’re having a bad day, when they’re frustrated, angry or upset.”
She believes it’s crucial that staff feels involved, included and cared for, especially since the pandemic. “Kitchens have changed,” she says. “The whole atmosphere has changed.”
Still, when Farmer was first approached as a mentor, she says it was unexpected.
“You don’t always see the value in yourself,” she admits. “I have always looked up to Chef [Walker] as my mentor, so I was under the impression that everyone was here for the same reason. It really made me stop and think about my impact.”
I hope these chefs’ stories might remind you of your own value and impact on those around you.
Please feel free to reach out with any ideas, questions or considerations. And don’t forget to register for the 2023 Chef to Chef Conference for more from Walker, who will join us as a speaker and conference coordinator.