2018 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Joey Ward of Gunshow

2018 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Joey Ward of Gunshow

924 Garrett Street
Atlanta, GA 30316


Inspired by Julia, Jacques, Justin, and Yan on TV, along with his grandfather, a former cook for the U.S. Navy, Joey Ward embarked on his culinary career in high school. He worked with mentor and Master Chef Kevin Walker at Atlanta’s Cherokee Town and Country Club, learning leadership, finding an outlet for his artistic bent, and showing an uncompromising dedication to the craft––Ward even missed his high school prom because he had to work sauté. 

Ward continued his education at the Culinary Institute of American and returned to Atlanta after graduation for a sous chef role at the St. Regis. Next, he worked for another formative mentor, Kevin Gillespie, at Woodfire Grill. After two years with Gillespie’s, Ward took over as executive chef of decidedly Southern H. Harper Station. Something more fitting for Ward’s creative streak was just around the corner. 

In 2013, Gillespie tapped Ward as chef de cuisine of his anything-goes dim sum concept, Gunshow. Ward has since taken over as executive chef—or more accurately captain of the pirate ship that is service at Gunshow, where chicken and waffles might share a table with tropical crudos and Korean-style ribs. For his work, Ward earned Zagat’s “30 Under 30” in 2014. Gunshow was named one of Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants 2014.” Ward was a national Eater “Young Guns” semi-finalist in 2015, the same year Gunshow landed on Eater’s “38 Essential Restaurants in America.

Interview with Atlanta Rising Star Chef Joey Ward

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Joey Ward:
My grandfather was a cook in the navy, and he was my idol. I didn’t have a dad growing up. I knew I wanted to be in the kitchen when I was 4 or 5. The first thing I cooked was blueberry pancakes. I knew I wanted to do something like [my grandfather] did, just not in the Navy. On Saturday mornings, after cartoons on PBS, I would watch cooking shows: “Yan Can Cook”, Julia Child, and Justin Wilson. I remember it being so cool, and I’ve always been artistic. The kitchen is all about trying to stimulate as many senses as you can at once. When you’re cooking at a high enough level there’s sight, sound, texture, taste, that distinct “X” factor and emotion that comes from dinner service. 

CH: Who's your mentor?
I have two, both Kevin Gillespie and Kevin Walker. Master Chef Kevin Walker took me under his wing when I was 16. He was the reason I went to The Culinary Institute of America, which taught me fundamentals. Meanwhile, I was working at the Cherokee Country Club from 16 to 21, which happened to be a great place to extern. They were uncompromising. I clocked in, worked the line, and didn’t go to prom or homecoming because I had to work sauté. I’ve never been afraid of working. 

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
: I do a lot of charity events and try to be active as much as I can be. I always like working with my peers. I organize Young Guns dinner for Share Our Strength. I’ve been the organizing chef for two years—the dinners have six chefs and six courses. I am supportive of anyone who raises the bar for our Nosh Talks, a discussion panel board, on how to make relationships more fluid. 

CH: What's your biggest challenge?
: I consider myself less an executive chef, and more captain of a pirate ship. We sit each week, with a chalkboard and talk about new dishes, getting ideas from different levels of experiences. A lot of people have left chef de cuisine and sous chef positions to come here. We corral all these creative people into a cohesiveness that kind of makes sense and is still kind of wacky. If someone believes in a dish, we have them take ownership, but you still must learn to edit. 

CH: What's your five-year plan?
: I’ve been here five years. The next step would be to open my own place, after Gunshow has run its course. It would be a more composed setting, with a tasting menu because my heart is in fine dining. I love creative expressions and doing fun stuff, and don’t take myself too seriously. I spent my entire career trying to leave Atlanta. I’ve visited Chicago, but I’ve always had a longing to work here. I could not be prouder of the heritage we have and the voice. I think it’s time for Atlanta to have a voice on national or world stage. Being part of Gunshow was great—I didn’t know if it was going to work. It has been a fun ride.