Forrest Parker was recently the Executive Chef at Gaylord Opryland, the 17th largest resort and convention center in the world. As Executive Chef, Parker created a new culinary concept for the property in early 2010, transforming a 25 year old establishment from Cascades Seafood Restaurant to Cascades American Café.
When historic floods in May of 2010 devastated Nashville and closed the property for many months, Parker was a leader on the small team that redesigned the property's kitchens, menu concepts and restaurants. He executed sanitation training for more than two-thousand employees, and once again trained a new culinary team to finally re-open Gaylord Opryland in November to high acclaim and record profitability. Not satisfied, Parker then went on to conceptualize and help launch the Opry Backstage Grill, an Opry themed and branded restaurant that is to be launched throughout the Southeast.
A celebrity chef in his own right, Chef Parker has been featured in a variety of publications including Santé, the Tennessean, Nation'sRestaurantNews.com, the Nashville Scene, Hip Compass Escapes magazine, the Murfreesboro Post and on WSMV-TV among others. He is the only Tennessee chef to have placed in the top three in the National Pork Competition and has taken top prizes twice in the Tennessee Pork Association's contest.
Chef Parker previously studied at the College of Charleston, pursuing a degree in classical studies and worked as a licensed tour guide for the city of Charleston, S.C. The fire for food was ignited when he began cooking for the James Beard Award-winning chef Louis Osteen at his Charleston restaurant. And under the close tutelage of Sous Chef James Clark, he learned all stations in the kitchen. It was here that Parker's education and career came full circle. He enjoyed the opportunity to cook with (and for) some of the greatest chefs in the Southeast, such as Elizabeth Terry, Frank Stitt, Mark Militello and Robert Carter.
Parker went on to become Restaurant Chef at the 4 star, 4 diamond Soaring Eagle Casino's Siniikaung Steak and Chop House in central Michigan. He opened the award winning Siniikaung Steakhouse, re-inventing classic steakhouse fare with a contemporary and seasonal touch. He then went on to work at the Mystic Lake Casino in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the Restaurant Chef. He managed teams of more than 100 and also taught culinary classes ranging in topics from regional American foods to Asian street foods in order to expand his team's knowledge and capability. Additionally, he completed wine studies at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone in Napa Valley. He joined Gaylord Opryland as Executive Chef in 2007, overseeing the elegant DiRoNA and Wine Spectator recognized Old Hickory Steakhouse, Cascades American Cafe and multiple other outlets with a P&L responsibility of more than $20 million. Chef Parker worked diligently with corporate partners to highlight sustainability in an economy of scale.
Parker has recently returned to Charleston to rejoin his family, temporarily separated due to the Nashville Floods. He eagerly looks forward to building long-term relationships within and around Charleston and its world class community of restaurants, chefs, farmers and fishermen. He is an active member of the James Beard Foundation, Slow Foods USA, and the Southern Foodways Alliance, and supports Lowcountry Local First and the SC Aquarium's Sustainable Seafood Initiative.