Founding Partner and Executive Chef
Hailing from the English countryside, Chef Kieron Hales brings extensive culinary experience to Zingerman’s Cornman Farms. From cooking for the Royal family to bringing his talents stateside to cook for three U.S. Presidents, Chef Hales is a true asset to the Zingerman’s team. His passion for culinary excellence coupled with his innate sense for business inspired Kieron to open Cornman Farms and transform it into the luxury event venue it is today. The 42-acre property opened its doors in May 2014 and specializes in weddings, corporate and culinary events.
In addition to wearing his chef’s hat, Kieron wears many other hats to bring his vision for the farm to life. Overseeing both the operational aspects of the business as well as the creative direction, he takes great pride in curating the production gardens, creating seasonally driven menus, teaching cooking classes, guiding farm tours, providing great service, mentoring his team and sharing his love and knowledge of food with everyone he encounters. Kieron’s zest for life, specifically food, is contagious. His attention to detail and quality is unparalleled and it is evident when given the opportunity to enjoy one of his meals.
Growing up in the small English farming village of Stoke Gabriel in Devon, Kieron studied the bassoon as a child and joined the National Children’s Orchestra before discovering his love for cooking. It wasn’t until Kieron took a home economics course that his culinary passion was piqued. Thanks to an observant teacher, Mrs. Williams, who encouraged his excitement for cooking, Kieron applied to the Specialized Chefs School in Bournemouth at the age of 13. Upon graduating, Kieron joined the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts at age 17 and embarked on a career that has taken him around the globe.
Starting with an apprenticeship under Stephan Goodlad at Coq D’Argent in London, Kieron proceeded to work in 1- and 2-star Michelin rated restaurants in Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, and Austria, as well as the Executive Dining Room at Goldman Sachs. Throughout his career, he has also been fortunate to cook for the Queen of England, President George H. Bush, President George W. Bush, and President Bill Clinton.
Welcome to Zingerman’s
In 2008, he emigrated to the U.S. to work for Zingerman’s after a chance meeting with Ari Weinzweig in England sparked a desire to work with the company. He began as sous chef at Zingerman’s Roadhouse under the tutelage of James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Alex Young, quickly rising to become head chef. He held this position until July of 2013 when he embarked on his journey to establish Cornman Farms as the premiere luxury event venue it has become.
A Vision for a Farm
Kieron has always had a burning desire to understand the history of food. Specifically, he began to develop a passion for traditional foodways such as canning, jarring, and farming practices, things he knew he wanted to explore further throughout his career. In 2010 Kieron attended ZingTrain’s “Creating a Vision of Greatness” seminar and penned his first vision for Cornman Farms. After numerous drafts (probably 25 or 30) and sharing his vision with many people, Kieron began his transition to the farm. In May of 2014, Cornman Farms opened its doors as the 9th Zingerman’s business, with Kieron Hales as managing partner. Kieron resides in Chelsea, Michigan with his wife Joanie and their two children.
Founder and Managing Partner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse
Founded Zingerman’s Roadhouse as chef and managing partner in September 2003, operating as one of the seven businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. Serving really good American food, Alex is a 5-time James Beard nominated Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region, winning the title in 2011. The same year Roadhouse Macaroni and Cheese was named the Best Comfort Food in America by Alton Brown’s Food Network show Best of. In 2009, the Roadhouse was given the honor of being named one of the “Top 10 New Barbecue Restaurants” by Bon Appetit.
At the age of 17 with no professional culinary training, Alex moved to New York City and landed his first kitchen job cooking for The Central Falls Roadshow. From there he worked in many different kitchens throughout the country, helping open New York’s China Grill with Chef Mako Tenaka, working for Chef Reed Heron at San Francisco’s Corona Bar and Grill and opening The Pittsburgh Fish Market in Pennsylvania. He was named the first corporate chef of the Hilton Restaurant Group before being introduced to Zingerman’s co-founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig in 1997 and beginning the journey to opening Zingerman’s Roadhouse together.
Alex’s passion for local agriculture and farming steered him to founding and opening Cornman Farms, what is now a 42 acre farm in Dexter, MI, eight miles from the Roadhouse. Growing more then 70 varietals of vegetables and caring for over 150 animals, Alex has made the farm-to-table dining experience come to life in Southeast Michigan. Educating the staff, the patrons, the community and local students on the importance of farming and knowing where food comes from earned Alex the honor of being one of twelve top chefs from around the country named a James Beard food activist.