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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Jay Denham

The Cure House

Jay Denham grew up around cattle. His father had a beef farm in Maysville, Kentucky, and Jay remembers eating meals that always incorporated something from his parents’ garden. After attending culinary school, he opened restaurants in Chicago, Nashville, and Louisville. For Jay, there was always a strong interest in curing, especially when working as garde manger, a role that he says he took “other stations’ trash to come up with something really flavorful and tasty.” Eventually the restaurants closed, and Jay traveled to Italy to study curing with Massimo Spigarolli (perhaps the equivalent of a “ham king” in Italy). Upon returning to Louisville, he partnered with Nick Heckett and Chuck Talbot and created Woodlands Pork. Together they raise hogs in the Southern Appalachian forests of West Virginia, which Jay considers “the most diverse deciduous forest range in the world, producing the most amount of food for a pig.” Their next step is The Curehouse in Louisville, where they will process, age and facilitate all the meat from their Woodlands Pork product. For Jay, it’s a return to his roots of creating meals from the best ingredients resembling the food he grew up with on his family’s farm.

In early 2016, the Cure House permanently closed.

Date of interview:

Sara Wood

Sara Wood

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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