Alabama chef John Hall bids goodbye to Birmingham, moves west

An award-winning Alabama chef has headed west. John Hall, the proprietor and executive chef of the popular pizzeria Post Office Pies, announced he will relocate to Portland, Ore. In a detailed post Wednesday on his Instagram account, the Birmingham native expressed heartfelt thanks for years of support before announcing he moved to the Pacific Northwest to place a greater focus on family:

“Through my education and training at some of the best restaurants in the world with arguably some of the best chefs in the world, I’ve come to learn that there is more to life than press, awards, and money to be made,” the post said. “Having come close to opening two new projects, I’ve decided to focus on what is most important to me after the last two years – family.”

In the post, Hall explained he will still retain his ownership stake in Post Office Pies and sang the praises of the team who will continue to run operations at the restaurants: The pizzeria’s general managers (“both strong, bad ass women”) and culinary director chef Roscoe Hall.

The carousel of photos in Hall’s Instagram post illustrate his culinary journey throughout the decades — black and white photos of him smiling in kitchens, a childhood photo of him standing over the stove, and photos with colleagues.

In one photograph, Hall poses with a group of children in the front of Post Office Pies. Teaching youth about the culinary world is a passion of Hall’s, who has also played a pivotal role as an instructor at Jones Valley Teaching Farm in Birmingham.

It’s a sentiment he expressed to celebrity chef Carla Hall during a tour of the farm in her 2018 cookbook “Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration.” Hall described the dialogue in her book, writing that their conversation reminded her that it’s possible to get the next generation to love vegetables, and inspired her recipe for chunky tomato soup with okra.

Hall left Birmingham in 1999 and cooked in kitchens around the South, including later working for chef Frank Stitt. Over the years, Hall built an impressive culinary resume, cooking with Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants, such as Chef Léa Linster in Luxembourg and New York’s Per Se, Gramercy Tavern and Momofuku Ssam.

Hall returned to Birmingham years later and opened Post Office Pies in 2014 in Avondale with Mike Wilson, Hunter Lake and Brandon Cain — the same management team that runs Saw’s Soul Kitchen. In 2015, a second location of Post Office Pies opened in Tuscaloosa, but closed in 2017. In 2020, the team opened a location of Post Office Pies in Mountain Brook.

In the Instagram post, Hall also urged his colleagues in Birmingham’s service industry to be change agents in the culinary world, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shed a light on the issues that have long plagued employees in the culinary industry, including stressful work environments, exhausting hours, and burnout.

“To all my colleagues in the service industry in Birmingham – let us re-define what our community of restaurants and bars look like. Let us strive to do better, be better than our predecessors before us when it comes to caring for our own.”

Rebecca R. Ammons

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