River Oaks Golf Course and Event Center are excited to introduce you to our Executive Chef James Warrington, (A.K.A. JW). JW has accumulated 32 years of experience in the hospitality and restaurant industry and has been overseeing all of the River Oaks culinary operations for the past three years, including the Eagles Bar & Grill, River Oaks Catering, and all banquet services in our Event Center.
JW grew up in Miami, Florida – a city with gorgeous white sand beaches, art deco, amazing cuisine, and fun vibe. It was in Miami where he was introduced into the restaurant industry at an early age.
“I started my cooking career at McDonald’s at age 15 working weekend nights,” explained JW.
At the ripe age of 16, while still in high school, JW started working as a Line Cook at Bojangles Famous Chicken n’ Biscuits, a chain of fast-food restaurants in the Southeastern United States famous for its fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. Within a year JW had been promoted to Kitchen Supervisor. Over the next few years, as JW began to come of age and adjust to life after high school, was when he began to explore the career possibilities and art form of the culinary world.
The desire to further his culinary skills pushed JW to move to the city of Duluth, MN where he took a job as a Line Cook at the city’s famous Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. It was at Grandma’s where JW met Chef Gary Baregi, who would be his trainer and mentor for years to come. Through the coaching of Gary Baregi, JW eventually moved to the Twin Cities where he became the Kitchen Supervisor of Grandma’s Saloon and Grill in Minneapolis.
Through many years of a lot of hard work, traveling, sweat, and dedication JW worked his way from Kitchen Supervisor to Sous Chef to Executive Chef to Corporate Culinary Trainer before finally becoming the General Manager. It was as General Manager that JW helped open 9 new Grandma’s locations including opening Bellisio’s Italian Restaurant in Duluth.
In 2005, following 12 awesome years with the company, JW left Grandma’s and moved to Ohio after meeting his future wife. Despite his departure from Grandma’s JW continued further his career in the restaurant industry working for well-known establishments such as The Winking Lizard Restaurant and Tavern, Claddagh Irish Pub, and West Point Market.
Over the next decade, JW continued to cook and eventually married his wife and together they had a son. Ten years after leaving, JW and his family moved back to Minnesota in 2015 to be closer to family. It was back in the land of ten thousand lakes when JW stubbled on River Oaks Golf Course and Event Center. They were hiring and looking for someone with extensive cooking experience to turn them around. JW applied and was hired immediately.
“They were only serving hotdogs, chips, and brats,” JW remembers from his first day on the job. “Now, we have our Friday night Signature Fish Fry’s, a full menu with ½ pound black Angus burgers, pasta, steaks, salads, and overstuffed sandwiches.”
JW remembers three years ago, River Oaks wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar, but now it’s where a lot of locals come in to eat. JW feels blessed to be a part of River Oaks and the City of Cottage Grove community.
When JW isn’t cooking food or managing kitchens, he is probably furthering his education and expanding his knowledge. JW received an Associate of Science degree in Graphic Design and Animation in 2004, a degree in Nutrition and Wellness in 2013 and was Certified as a Digital Marketing Professional in 2019