Check out this foodie haven!
I met Tony just a few weeks ago at the farmers market I sell at. He then attended our farm dinner and we talked further. He's a great guy and I'm glad I know him, and I looking forward to getting to know him more as we continue our friendship. Talking to him he comes across as the humblest guy you'd meet and yet combined with that is years of life experience and knowledge and skill that he's honed to shape him to where he is today--truly a craftsman of many talents.
Tell me about what your position is at Pigeon Mountain Grill and when you started there?
My Name is Tony Whaley and I am the General Manager at the ever so evolving Pigeon Mountain Grill. I’ve been here since November of 2013 and have been GM since September of 2015. I work in the kitchen most of the week. Either working the smoker, dinner specials, cooking on the line, prep or washing dishes and cleaning. So I’d say I am a hands on GM. We are a small family owned business located out in the beautiful countryside of Walker Co. Owners Carl and Susan Cofer live in the neighborhood and are directly involved in many aspects of the community not only in Walker County but in and around the southeast. If it wasn’t for these guys believing in me, I would not be where i am today. Their farm SaultoPaul, supplies us with the No Antibiotic No Hormone Grass Fed Longhorn beef we use in the restaurant. It was one of the main reasons I took on the job. Not only are they aware but they were progressive in doing so in this type of rural community. I’m a fortunate guy to be working with such a great community.
What did you do before this, what’s some of your back story and life?
I grew up working in and around Chattanooga restaurants from the age of 16 until about age 26/27. I grew from corporate owned chains to locally owned fine dinning. I really enjoyed the wine and foodie aspect of things. At that time I mostly worked “front of house” but was always with the kitchen team trying to help and learn new things about cooking. In 1998 I started my career in the TV business. I worked for FOX local TV for a few years working my way up to Newscast Director before moving on to Memphis, TN(Home of the World BBQ Championship) for 5 years and then to Denver for 7 more years. I moved back here to Chickamauga, GA in the summer of 2013. I never thought i would end up back in the food industry again but life has a weird way of unfolding and manifesting into something. Whether it be good or bad. I believe it was for the better this time around. It certainly has not been an easy path but I’m lucky to have a great team, a Pigeon Mountain family, that has stuck together through the good and the bad.
What keeps you passionate about food and drink and keeps you persevering when things are tough?
My passion here has come from seeing the growth and the long lasting relationships. Good Food and Good Service go a long way. We aren’t perfect and we have had our fair share of hurdles to overcome but we have some thick skin and are always willing to make things right. The ones that return are the ones that believe in us and thats what inspires me to keep on fooding. We started from something very small and now we are working directly with the community inside and outside the restaurant on many different topics far and wide. Its a warm feeling.
I think that working in the food industry is super important and can teach anyone a lot about service and work ethic, what are some things you’ve learned from working in this field or line of industry?
It’s easy to say but so hard to execute. To be constantly evolving, growing, learning. If I slow down or ease up, thats when the restaurant slumps. Its a must to live by a positive example.
What’s your favorite menu item (s) on the menu?
When I started out here, the former management did not want us to use their recipes. So my former manager asked me to come up with a rub for the ribs and a sweet southern sauce. After some trial and lots of error “we struck gold” I’d like to say. Its the same recipe we are using today almost 5 years later. Winning 1st Place for Best Ribs in the North GA Best of The Best 2017 Placing again this year in 2018. We also have a Savory Southern Style Shrimp and Grits dish that recently we have been using fresh local sausage from Cagle farms which is just down the road. Its a perfect fit and right in line with our constant effort towards farm to table.
What’s your favorite beer or wine that you currently serve?
I’m a beer connoisseur these days, so my favorite is always changing but right now with it being Spring, I’m really diggin the Chattanooga Brewing Co’s Chattahoooligan Kolsch. Fresh and Crisp. And Community.
In what ways has the community supported the venture?
We just had another great wildflower season this spring. Not only do the wildflowers at the waterfall in the pocket bring all the enthusiast out. This year we also teamed up with our friend Jennifer McSpadden over at Phantom Horse Brewing Co where they crafted us a batch of Wildflower Pale Ale for our Wildflower Weekend 2018 festival which featured local musicians. We also have the 2nd Annual Jayhawk Fest 2018 coming up. Jayhawk is put together by the community , in the community with local vending and in effort to raise money for the local Child Advocacy Center. Win win.
What are some dreams or goals for PMG down the road that you see or envision? Coming up we will be hosting a Farm to Table Dinner at the Pavilion featuring SaultoPaul, Natural ways Homestead and Cagle Farms just to name a few. This is just one more way to work directly with local hardworking farmers selling a local product. This dinner is a goal I’ve envisioned since I first started working at the grill. I’m anxious about the new growth we will endure this year and next. Our team is switching up our specials all the time. Teaming up, creating, brainstorming about what the next big thing is going to be. Constantly evolving, growing, learning.
Check them out for lunch or dinner at 18381 GA-193, Chickamauga, GA 30707
Get in touch or make a reservation via phone 706-539-2999