Locals and visitors to Mississippi’s College Town know that Starkville’s authentic farm to table goodness needs no greater showcase than a table at Restaurant Tyler, Bin 612, or The Guest Room. Owner and executive chef, Ty Thames, has nurtured these unique restaurant concepts in Downtown Starkville with a commitment to honest cuisine that’s rooted in the deep South and seasoned with culinary experience from across the globe. From local farm-raised and hand-cured meats to bread from the baker down the street, and produce grown by friends at the Starkville Community Market, Chef Ty’s menu offerings are infused with true local flavor. Take a seat as we learn a little more about this ambassador for the Starkville community and its vibrant culinary scene.
Chef Jonathan “Ty” Thames is a Mississippi native who began his culinary journey at the age of 15. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from the University of Southern Mississippi, he graduated with distinction from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. After earning two degrees stateside, Ty moved to Parma, Italy to learn the techniques of Italian cuisine the old fashioned way, through an apprenticeship under Chef Leonardo of Maria Luigi Restaurant.
After returning to the United States with an authentic understanding of Italian cuisine in his culinary arsenal, Ty settled in Washington, D.C. where he worked under the renowned chefs of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Georgetown. Later, he developed a regional following during a stint at Centro, an Italian fine dining establishment in Bethesda, Maryland. He was recognized in publications such as the Washington Times, the Washington Post, D.C. Style Magazine and Washingtonian Magazine.
When it came time to follow his dream of owning his own restaurant, Ty returned to his Mississippi roots and found a culinary home in Starkville. Along with business partner, Brian Kelley, Ty established the Eat Local Starkville brand, and has grown three restaurant concepts that have become an essential part of any trip to the Starkville community: Restaurant Tyler, a two story Southern-style fine dining and event space on Main Street; Bin 612, an eclectic hot spot in the Cotton District; and The Guest Room, a back door “speakeasy” in the basement of the Downtown location. Ty’s commitment to natural and local ingredients shines in an innovative menu for each restaurant, with weekly favorites built on the relationships (and tastes) he’s nurtured with local farmers and food crafters. As a member of the advisory board for the Starkville Community Market, Ty and his culinary team are regular features on Saturdays with culinary demonstrations at the Market, but it’s just as likely to see them purchasing peaches or greens for upcoming blue plate specials or desserts at one of the restaurants.
Ty’s work and the Eat Local Starkville restaurants have been featured in numerous regional and national media, including Southern Living, Garden & Gun, ESPN’s Taste of the Town, Mississippi Magazine, and more. Restaurant Tyler is a favorite among visiting sportscasters looking for a great meal on collegiate game weekends. In addition, Chef Ty has become a regular award-winner in many local and regional culinary events and chef’s competitions throughout the region, most recently being featured in the Southern Roadtrip Tasting Tent at the 2016 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival.
Continuing his impact on the local culinary scene, Chef Ty and the Eat Local Starkville group will be nurturing another Starkville tradition through its next culinary steps over the coming months. In June, the group took over ownership of City Bagel Cafe, with plans to continue the authentic process of daily bagel making and commitment to quality baking that has garnered the establishment such a loyal following. However, Starkville’s faithful culinary patrons will probably see a few of the innovative local tastes they’ve come to expect from Chef Ty make an appearance as well.
Through relationships with local growers, a continual quest for the flavors found in truly local foods, and a keen understanding of the economic impact of developing the local food culture, Chef Ty Thames is quickly becoming synonymous with a new definition of “farm to table” in the New South.
Written by Haley Montgomery