Goodbye To The Man Who Reinvented Southern Hospitality: Sam Beall, Blackberry Farm Owner, Dies

Sam Beall, whose pioneering Blackberry Farm won a James Beard Award, died, aged 39, in a skiing accident.

02.27.16 12:10 AM ET

Sam Beall, who helped put the South and Eastern Tennessee on the national culinary map with his pioneering and acclaimed, restaurant and hotel Blackberry Farm, has died in a skiing accident.

Beall, 39, passed away Thursday in Colorado, leaving a wife and five children.

“The Beall family and the Blackberry Farm team are understandably shocked by this heartbreaking news about the man they loved dearly as a son, brother, father, friend and host,” Blackberry Farm said in a statement. “They welcome the thoughts and prayers of all those whose lives were touched by Sam’s hospitable nature, visionary leadership and adventurous spirit.”

His establishment helped inspire a new generation of gourmet southern chefs who, like Beall, pride themselves on rediscovering local and indigenous products.

As a result of this movement, there are now gourmet restaurants serving locavore cuisine across the region.

“Sam Beall was a visionary in more ways than one,” said Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, in a statement on the organization’s site.

“He not only redefined the meaning of hospitality at his James Beard Award—winning Blackberry Farm—believed by many to be one of the best resorts in the world—but he also understood the importance of and strongly advocated for a more sustainable, wholesome food system.”

Beall was born on the 4,200-acre property but grew up in Mobile, Alabama, where his father, Sandy Beall, ran the restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday. (Sandy opened the first restaurant location while in college at the University of Tennessee and built it into an 850-location business.)

Before leading Blackberry Farm, he attended The California Culinary Academy and worked at an impressive list of establishments, including Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry.

Beall learned about hospitality from his earliest years.

According to the Farm’s website, “Sam’s love for Blackberry began at an early age as he ate chocolate mousse, crepes, and followed his mom around the kitchen as she prepared and served meals and welcomed Blackberry’s first guests.”

Blackberry Farm, which started out in the 1970s as a small inn, has been able to distinguish itself with an amazing wine list (180,000 bottles according to Wine Spectator), deluxe accommodations and an unwavering dedication to artisanal food.

As a result, it was named Travel + Leisure’s Number 1 hotel in North America and Bon Appetit’s #1 Hotel for Food Lovers.

Beall was able to attract a who’s who of American chefs to his hotel, which helped raised its national profile. Upcoming events include visits by food luminaries Martha Stewart and Alice Waters, as well as musicians Emmylou Harris and Little Big Town.