Joey Ward

Joey Ward

Executive Chef and Owner of Southern Belle & Georgia Boy

I've learned to create a healthy work/life balance by taking drinking out of the equation and seeing a therapist. It has allowed me to work through issues that I was previously taking to an unhealthy place. Now, I can stay more in the moment—even in moments of stress. I also do CrossFit five days a week, and I like to run outside on the weekends.

I’ve set up the logistical design and structure of my restaurants to foster better mental health for the staff. For example, all cooks are on three-week rotations, wherein they go between stations at Georgia Boy and then move to Southern Belle [the two concepts are in the same building] for a different style of service. This keeps things new and fresh for them and fights burnout. At Georgia Boy, we are only doing four nights of service per week to give teammates time to decompress and enjoy life outside of work.
I’m inspired to help grow and shape the next generation of culinarians and industry professionals through healthy practices and positive leadership.
The best piece of advice I have received is to always remain humble and know that you can always learn from everyone.
Cooking at a country club as a young person had the most significant impact on my career. I was 16 years old when I started my career in this industry, and my mentors there helped instill in me a good work ethic and solid fundamentals.
I keep myself educated by trying new things, learning on the job, and listening to the cooks around me. My idea is not the only idea. We have a creative and collaborative workflow in my kitchen.
Talk about what’s bothering you. Don’t ignore feelings – tell a friend, talk to someone, don’t let it build up. Things go from thought, to emotion, to stressor pretty quickly. Get it out and process it.
When hiring, I look for passion, and what the person does outside of work. I’ll ask what types of cuisine they are interested in, which social media accounts they follow, what their favorite restaurant is, what their favorite cookbook is, what their favorite dish is, etc. It’s good to know about the types of cuisine my cooks are interested in.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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