James was raised on the eastside of Detroit in a household that made everything from scratch.
This is where his passion for cooking was born. He entered the restaurant industry at age 14 with Andiamo Trattoria, a kitchen focused on made-from-scratch cooking. His experience working there confirmed that he found his calling. He went on to earn a Bronze medal in the American Culinary Federation post-secondary hot foods competition and helped coach young chefs to the podium in years after. He worked at the Common Grill in Chelsea, MI and then headed to New York City, honing his culinary craft at Empellon Cocina, Momofuku Ma Peche and Seamstress. On a trip to visit their sons, Jan and Harry, owners of Black Pearl Ann Arbor, asked James if he would ever come back to Michigan. He said it has always been his dream to be the Executive Chef at Black Pearl because he was part of the team that created the original menu in 2008. Chef James brings a new level of creativity to our offerings with an emphasis on what's fresh, what's in season, and what's delicious.