James Allen is the Executive Chef of the Blackthorn Club at The Ridges in Jonesborough, Tenn. In addition to being a Certified Executive Chef, Allen is also one of the 2022 Club + Resort Chefs of the Year.
Allen graduated from Auburn University with a degree in archeology. Once he joined a crew digging for Colorado State in Alaska, Allen began cooking for the crew because no one else wanted to. After learning he was a better chef than an archeologist, Allen decided to change directions, beginning an education in the culinary arts.
Allen completed the program at Le Cordon Bleu, where he fell in love with culinary. Due to his love of the precision of fine dining, he then went on to an externship in Ireland at the Michelin-rated Chez Hans. After completing his externship, Allen worked in restaurants in the south before working his first club job at Old Overton Country Club in Vestavia Hills, Ala. There he worked under Executive Chef Jae Mackenzie who eventually helped Allen find his first Executive Chef role at Tupelo Country Club in Belden, Miss. Two years later, Allen became the Executive Chef of Blackthorn Club.
Over the past decade, Allen has had a tremendous impact on Blackthorn’s culinary program. He has increased F&B revenues from $350,000 to $1.4 million annually and has made the club a premier dining destination for its 830 members that is equal to golf. Allen has also created an environment where line cooks become chefs.
Allen’s menus utilize a ‘from scratch’ mentality with local ingredients to deliver handcrafted menu items that satisfy all requests and dietary restrictions. Fun, unique and creative specials, while still delivering on the classics, is why the membership chooses to dine at Blackthorn Club. Blackthorn’s well-traveled members hold the club to high standards and Allen and his culinary team consistently deliver on their expectations.
In 2022, Allen was named one of the Club + Resort Chefs of the Year at the Chef to Chef Conference in Nashville, alongside Robert Meitzer, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef of Forest Lake Club.