Combining a passion for two of the greatest pleasures in life, fine food and beverages, has been a recipe for success for Brown Forman’s Executive Chef Mark Williams.
He has honed his craft through work that has allowed him to travel to some of the world’s great culinary destinations.
Growing up in the South with a family whose background includes restauranteurs and farmers, Mark began his formal culinary training with an American Culinary Federation apprenticeship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. During his apprenticeship, he also cooked at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion and attended Georgia State University, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Administration.
After completing his apprenticeship, Mark joined the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in Atlanta as the chef at The Fish Market in Lenox Square, which received five Best of Atlanta awards while he was in the chef.
An interest in exploring food and wine pairing led Mark to Napa Valley, California, where he became the sous chef at The School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards under award winning cookbook author and PBS series host Madeline Kamman. After leaving Beringer, he became chef in residence at Sonoma-Cutrer Winery and also catered events for many Napa Valley clients, including winemaker Robert Mondavi and film director Francis Ford Copola (“The Godfather”). He also worked as a chef for film director George Lucas (“Star Wars”) at the Skywalker Ranch in Marin County.
Mark’s culinary skills and his love for travel have allowed him to explore the wine regions of France, Italy, South Africa, and New Zealand, where he worked in Auckland as a chef during the America’s Cup Yacht Races and on location for the television series “Zena.”
Mark has been honored to have been invited to prepare meals for many notables, including U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Newt Gingrich, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and sports greats Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer. He has cooked for many celebrities in the music and movie industry, including Ray Charles, Linda Ronstad, The Grateful Dead, R.E.M., Paul McCartney, Anthony Hopkins, Isabella Rossellini, Keanu Reeves, Antonio Banderas, Robin Williams and Harrison Ford.
Perhaps his most challenging meals have been prepared for chefs who have inspired his cooking, including Julia Child, Jean-Louis Palladin, Michel Richard, Paul Bocuse, Todd English, Michael Chiarello and Alice Waters.
Mark has been a featured chef at the James Beard House in New York City.
He is the founder and leader of the Slow Food Bluegrass convivium, part of the Slow Food international movement to support sustainable local food and celebrate traditional regional cuisine. He is a founding member of the Napa Valley Culinary Alliance, and is a current member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and The Southern Foodways Alliance. He serves on the board of advisors for Partners for Family Farms and Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality.
He holds numerous culinary professional certifications, and has participated in culinary programs at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and at Cocinar Mexicano in Tepotzlan, Mexico. He has received professional media training for chefs from public relations expert Lisa Ekus.
His love for pairing wine and food and a keen interest in expanding this knowledge to include cooking with spirits and liqueurs brought him to his current position with the Brown Forman Corporation in Louisville, Kentucky. As Corporate Executive Chef, he writes recipes and designs menus using a portfolio of the finest alcoholic beverages in the world including Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort, Chambord, and Tuaca liqueurs, Finlandia Vodka, Woodford Reserve, Early Times and Old Forester Kentucky Bourbons, Pepe Lopez, El Jimador and Casa Herradura Premium Tequilas, Appleton Jamaican Rum, Amarula Cream Liqueur, Fetzer, Bonterra and Bolla Wines and Korbel Champagne.
His culinary creations are enjoyed daily during lunches in the Bourbon Street café, the private dining room at Brown-Forman world headquarters, and at numerous events in the community throughout the year.
Always eager to share his passion for cooking with Brown-Forman products, his recipes have been published in magazine articles, cookbooks and on-line. He appears regularly on local television and gives cooking demonstrations at festivals and events throughout the country. Past appearances have included the Taste of Chicago, the Kentucky State Fair, I.A.C.P. conference, and the Epcot Food and Wine festival at Walt Disney World.