In late February I was reading the NYTimes and came across an obituary of 39-year-old Sam Beall (pronounced Bell). Sam was not someone who Chef Frank or myself had the opportunity to meet, but we would have jumped at the chance. Sam was killed in a ski accident, as report by the NYTimes. The Denver Post reported that he ran into a wood pole at Beaver Creek Ski Resort (no one saw the accident). Sam was wearing a helmet, but he died from injuries to his chest. What made this article stand out to me, was that Sam was a doer and a believer in the Farm to Table movement. Referring to the cuisine at the farm as “foothill cuisine”. He told a House Beautiful in 2013. “On one side lies everything rural, on the other is everything urban. Our food kind of walks the line between the rugged and the refined — or rustic country fare and haute cuisine.” Sam was the author of two cookbooks, “The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm: Recipes and Wisdom from Our Artisans, Chefs, and Smoky Mountain Ancestors,” & The Blackberry Farm Cookbook: Four Seasons of Great Food and the Good Life.
Sam turned his family farm, Blackberry Farm into a destination, in Walland, Tenn. Over time, he transformed his family farm into something grand and special. Part of the Relais and Châteaux chain luxury properties, consider one of the top resorts in North America and rated by Bon Appétit as a best food lover’s hotel in the United States. Sam was at the top of his game. The restaurants on the farm draw, on the vegetables, pigs, chickens, cheeses and other ingredients from the farm. Blackberry Farm employs master gardeners, bakers, cheese maker, butcher, jam maker and chocolatier.
The property was originally founded by Florida & Dave Laiser in 1930. “Sandy & Kreis Beall opened a country inn on the 4,200-acre property in 1976 — the same year Sam was born.” Sandy Beall started Ruby Tuesday in 1972, Sandy retired from the business in 2012. Sam took over Blackberry Farm in 1998.
Sam was born on Blackberry Farm and made it his home until his sudden dead with his family. “During his leadership, the farm saw the evolution of the Farmstead, the Wellhouse, expansion of retail program, the creation of two new restaurants, and the accumulation of accolades ranging from Travel + Leisure’s Number 1 hotel in North America, Bon Appetit’s #1 Hotel for Food Lovers, and three James Beard Awards.”
Even though his name was far from household, Sam was a presence in the food world. Studying at the University of Tennessee and the California Culinary Academy, an affiliate of Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. He worked under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Yountville; with Sue Conley and Peggy Smith at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco; and at the Ritz-Carlton. Under his leadership Blackberry Farms earned three James Beard Awards.
Chefs from across the globe have expressed their sympathies via Twitter. Danny Meyer wrote this “Crushed to learn about Sam Beall’s @blackberryfrm untimely death. More wisdom and grace at 39 than most of us will have in a lifetime. RIP.”
Chef Frank & myself feel the say way about the loss of Sam Beall. Although we have not been to Blackberry Farms or had the privilege of meeting Sam. We believe in what he was doing and that he was a visionary in the farm to table movement. Our hearts go out to his family and everyone at Blackberry Farms.
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