At the Table with Joseph Stinchcomb, Beverage Director at Saint Leo in Oxford, MS

joseph stinchcomb, oxford mississippi, cocktail bar oxford mississippi
Photo via Southern Foodways Alliance

In 2019 because of Joseph Stinchcomb’s creative cocktail menus, Saint Leo Restaurant was named a James Beard award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program. He was Southern Foodways Alliance Smith Fellow in 2019. You’ll often find Green Chartreuse in his cocktails, as it is one of his favorite liqueurs.

Joseph Stinchcomb joined Kingfisher, Durham’s ground-to-glass cocktail bar, in August 2019 as a guest bartender. With him he brought his cocktail menu, Black History Month, to share. I wasn’t able to attend, but I was intrigued. As a way to start conversation and inform guests at Saint Leo, an Italian-inspired restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi, he used names like “Blood on the Trees”, “(I’m Not Your) Negroni, and “Black Wall Street”. Joseph’s menu garnered a lot of criticism and he unfortunately pulled the menu shortly thereafter. In an article for the Southern Foodways Alliance, Joseph told writer Osayi Endolyn, “I wanted people to feel how I feel as a Black person in America. I didn’t get a blueprint on this. I wasn’t told how to navigate these waters.”

Although I didn’t get to try Joseph’s Black History Month menu, I do think about it and the conversations surrounding the content, even though it was short lived. I admire Joseph for using his talent and craft to start uncomfortable conversations that need to be had.

All of that being said, pull up a seat to the table and learn more about Joseph Stinchcomb!

Drinks

  1. Most notable food memory? My Aunt Cynthia’s Caramel Cake.
  2. Most sought after dinner guest, living or not? I would love to have my grandfather again. He passed away in 2016 before I truly came into my own. I ‘d like to have him see how far I’ve come.
  3. If you were not doing what you were doing what would you be? A high school teacher. I love kids and to give back would be amazing.
  4. Junk food vice? Pickles and ANYTHING sweet. I have a serious sweet tooth. 
  5. What restaurant do you most want to visit? Eleven Madison Park

Cocktails

  1. What is your favorite food city that you have been to? Chicago. My mom is from Oklahoma so being in Chicago gives me that Midwestern vibe but you have so much to do and eat. I was born in Germany so I can always find good German food.
  2. What city do you most want to visit that you have not been to? Toyko
  3. What quality do you most look for in a vegetable? Crispness. Vegetables should have a crunch.
  4. What’s your greatest food extravagance? Cocktails and good cheese. I am a sucker for a really well curated cocktail list.
  5. What/who do you listen to while cooking? My guilty pleasure is pop music. I love cooking with Taylor Swift or Maroon 5 playing.

Breakfast and Lunch

  1. When was the last time you cooked at home?  What did you make?I cooked at home last week. I cooked some spinach ravioli with grilled corn reduction. It turned out really well.
  2. Where would you love to cook a meal at? In the White House or Buckingham Palace. 
  3. What’s the most overrated ingredient? Bacon. It overpowers anything you put with it.
  4. If you had the chance to redo one meal/cocktail you’ve ever served, which one would it be, what would you serve instead? The first cocktail I made for Saint Leo was a vodka based cocktail. I would serve a good Vodka Martini instead.
  5. If you were only allowed to keep one sense only, what would it be and why? Taste. I couldn’t live in a flavorless world.
  6. If you could bring back one deceased relative to cook for, who would it be and what would you cook for them? I would love to have my grandfather again. He passed away in 2016 before I truly came into my own. I ‘d like to have him see how far I’ve come. We would have fish and grits, his favorite.

Dinner

  1.  Biggest culinary/bartender inspiration? Why? I have two. Jayce McConnel in Charleston, SC and Miles Macquarrie of Atlanta, GA. Both do beyond amazing things with flavors and they are truly good people. 
  2. What book are you currently reading? Heavy by Kiese Laymon
  3. Biggest threat to the Food & Beverage industry? The lack of healthcare and the general apathy for restaurant work. It’s an artform to curate an experience. Working in restaurants is like hosting a dinner party for 200+ people every night. Also the lack of skilled kitchen work.
  4. If you can change one thing about the food and beverage industry what would it be? Giving healthcare to service industry folks.
  5. How would you doctor up store bought Ramen? Cheese and an egg
  6. What imaginary figure would you most want to cook for? What would you serve? Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7. We’d eat Ramen. 

Dessert

  1. What would you tell your 20 year old self? It’s okay to not find a job in your field. Your time will come and you will shine bright. Treat others with kindness.
  2. What’s your idea of a perfect meal? Good food, great company. Drinks flowing. Everyone is having a good time.
  3. What quality do you most like in a server? Someone who is genuine, kind and patient. 
  4. What quality do you most like in a chef? Patience. And the ability to teach not just instruct. I have found that over time the chef’s patience for things wears thin. It’s telling to hear chefs that yell and scream at someone who made a mistake.

Snacks

  1. What do you most value in your peers/team? Kindness. Treating someone with true kindness extends past language or culture or skin. It’s a universal truth and everyone should learn it
  2. What would be your last meal? As I mentioned earlier, my Aunts Caramel cake.
  3. What is your motto?  “ Never have pride but take pride in your work.” My grandpa used to say that everyday to my brothers and I growing up.

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