In 1979 David Pinckney’s career took a dramatic turn without him even realizing it.
He was a high-school student working part time in the kitchen at The Lord Lindsey, with plans to attend the University of Tennessee and study broadcasting.
His supervisor reassigned him from the popular restaurant and bar, known for its late-night partying, to a premier dining establishment called The Orangery. There he was to fill in as dishwasher for the evening.
He never went back to Lord Lindsey. Instead, he maintained a part-time job at The Orangery while following his plan to attend UT.
What wasn’t planned was a career in the culinary arts and tenure at the Orangery, which spanned more than 25 years, albeit not all spent doing dishes.
“They had me making cold appetizers (and) then moved me up to doing the hors d’oeuvres. The next position was the grill. … Then later on I got thrown to the saute station,” he said.
In 1987 when he was 24, the establishment gave him the title of executive chef. All the while he’d kept his hand in broadcasting by working part time for a local television station after graduating from UT.
“I had to take a pay cut to become executive chef at The Orangery because I quit my part-time job at the TV station. I worked more hours and made less money,” he said.
He had a successful career at The Orangery, where he maintained its reputation as one of the best dining establishments in Knoxville.
In 2006 he left for a new challenge as executive chef at Cherokee Country Club, a position he holds today. His duties include overseeing operation of the main dining hall and the men’s grill and snack shops at the pool and golfing area in addition to hosting a variety of fundraising events, including Les Trois Chefs Dinner and Wine Auction, a fundraiser for Childhelp Tennessee.
Cherokee is going through a $12 million renovation that includes Pinckney’s plan for a garden overlooking Fort Loudoun Lake.
“Next year we are going to have a nice lakefront herb and vegetable garden,” he said.
He got his love of cooking from his mother, Margaret Callis Pinckney, Knoxville, whom he described as a great cook.
Before she married, she had rented a room from Sadie LaSeur, who was a country club chef in Nashville. It was there that his mother picked up culinary skills that she later shared with her children.
“We didn’t have fried chicken and things like that,” David Pinckney said. “We had more upscale dinners … like coq au vin, chicken liver pate and steak tartar.”
When his mother started teaching evening classes at UT, Pinckney began testing his own culinary prowess, using his two younger sisters as guinea pigs.
“I remember making herb-baked chicken,” he said.
In addition to his duties at Cherokee, he shares his love of cooking with his wife, Amanda, and their 12-year-old daughter, Calli.
Calli “loves to come to cooking classes with me at the Glass Bazaar, where she helps me crack eggs, stir things and hand out plates. She’s eaten foie gras, duck and lamb, and she likes her steaks nice and rare,” he said.
As for his degree in broadcasting, those skills are used weekly as he oversees the filming of Sunday services at St. John’s Cathedral, where he is a member.