Image of Chef Joshua
Joshua Blackwell grew up in rural Alabama where food defined his family and was the forefront of daily life. Whether foraging wild edibles, planting crops, raising meat rabbits, fishing on the Black Warrior River, or cooking with the talented women of his family, food was and remains the central tenet of his personal culture. “When I prepare a meal, I am telling a story of home.”
Joshua took his first culinary job in the Appalachian foothills at the Wildflower Cafe in Mentone, Alabama where his on-the-job education focused heavily on the crops from the mountains and the traditions the locals held close. Youthful wanderlust led him to relocate to a yoga retreat in Colorado where he began working as a farm to table chef high in the Rockies studying traditional Indian Cuisine and helping tend the kitchen gardens. After a short while, the South called to him and he returned. He next helmed the kitchen of a quaint, 4 diamond Bed and Breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina. After the season was over, he moved back to Birmingham and began working in several celebrated kitchens, adopting new skills and filling various roles along the way. His most recent stints have been as the Executive Chef of the Westin Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama and his original concept, Sweet Jon’s Cafe, which was dedicated to his partner of 9 years, Jon.
After years of community engagement and dedication to Birmingham’s growing sustainable and local food economy, Joshua has developed strong and reliable relationships with growers, heritage breed farmers, makers, artisans, and community organizations. He believes a chef has a vital role to play in communicating and promoting awareness of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. This belief led to his collaboration with UCLA and Auburn University which allowed him to cultivate and create new recipes for emerging and heritage crops.
A quote from Chef Joshua
“My passion for the culinary arts boils down to honoring my heritage and telling a story of place. I strive to play an active part in ensuring a sustainable future for the community in which I reside and hope to deliver a bit of magic on every plate that leaves my new kitchen in Chicago.”
- Long A table sits in front of a white wall with gold letters "Y" and "O." On the table is a white tablecloth with a pattern and on the tablecloth are the settings for an elegant-looking, buffet-style meal: a stack of white dishes is at the right, two salads (a fruit salad and a vegetable salad) raised on stands occupy the middle, each accompanied by gleaming silver tongs placed on a serving dish.
- Long A partial view of a buffet table shows two dishes on a white table covered with a contemporary style lace tablecloth. On the left-hand side of the table is an elevated white ceramic bowl of salad made up of greens garnished with walnuts. On the right, two square white ceramic plates are filled with watermelon, cucumber, and feta salad topped with mint leaves. One plate is raised on a metallic stand. Softly curved silver tongs rest on small white ceramic plates in front of the platters. Three stacks of ceramic medium-sized plates fill the right side of the table. In the background gold text on a white wall is partially in view, the only full letter we can see in focus is a giant golden Y and half of the letter O.