Jan 28, 2022 - Food and Drink

A new era at Sean Brock's Joyland

Joyland's new general manager Blake Hoerres.
Joyland's new general manager Blake Hoerres. Photo courtesy of Joyland

Blake Hoerres spent most of his career working in kitchens at fine-dining restaurants such as Husk. But his latest job is pushing him out of that comfort zone.

  • As the new general manager at the low-key Joyland — an East Nashville restaurant slinging burgers, biscuits, and chicken on a stick — Hoerres is mentoring entry-level cooks and testing the limits of fast food.

Why it matters: Hoerres' arrival at Joyland could usher in a new era of experimentation within Sean Brock's city-spanning culinary empire.

  • Brock, the James Beard Award winner behind Joyland, Audrey, and The Continental, tells Axios that hiring a fine-dining expert to oversee a fast food concept is already leading to unexpected and playful culinary mash-ups.

Driving the news: Joyland recently hosted a special event that brought together Brock's chefs with the pop-up Kisser Japanese BBQ. The $175 five-course tasting menu included beverage pairings from the Nashville-based Proper Sake.

  • Hoerres and Brock say Joyland will continue to blur the line between fast food and fine dining with similar events in the future.
  • "We have the luxury of really being whatever we want," Hoerres tells Axios. "The primary goal here is serving good food in a fun atmosphere."

What he's saying: "Joyland is our playground and we will always continue to evolve," Brock says.

  • "I love not having rules in place," he adds. "I think it is so cool to walk into a fast food restaurant and get Michelin-star-quality tasting menus."

Yes, but: Don't worry. Joyland's milkshakes and bacon cheeseburgers aren't going anywhere.

  • Hoerres, who worked with Brock years ago at Husk Savannah, says he spends most of his days focused on how to bring high-end standards to bear on every grilled cheese and nugget.
  • "Our ingredients are sourced with that same fine-toothed comb as any of Sean's other restaurants," Hoerres says. "The standards have been set."

Between the lines: Hoerres says his first months working for Brock at Joyland have been particularly rewarding because he gets to guide cooks and staff members who are just starting out.

  • "It's my place in all of this to usher them into it," he says. "This is my opportunity to give back."
Joyland's chicken on a stick.
Joyland's chicken on a stick. Photo courtesy Emily Dorio
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