Jonathan “Ty” Thames is co-owner and chef of a handful of Starkville, Mississippi’s most popular bars and eateries—Bin 612, City Bagel Cafe, Restaurant Tyler and The Guest Room. What began as a dream between him and his college roommate, Brian Kelley, is now one of the most celebrated restaurant groups in the state.
Thames started cooking in his teen years. His formal education began at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. He then took off for Vermont, where he graduated with distinction from the New England Culinary Institute. After graduation, he moved to Parma, Italy, to expand his expertise in Italian cuisine. While in Italy, he trained under Chef Leonardo of Maria Luigi Restaurant.
Once stateside again, Thames began working at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Georgetown Property in Washington, D.C. He honed his craft there, and then moved to the regional Italian restaurant Centro in Bethesda, Md. His work there earned him recognition in several national and regional publications.
When Kelley called to make good on their college dream, Thames moved home to Mississippi and opened Bin 612.
“Starkville is just a small town, and I love the intimacy of it,” he said. “The community response has been so overwhelming for what we’ve been doing.”
Thames has dedicated his career in Starkville to being a responsible restauranteur, using locally-grown, natural products and hiring and retaining the best talent. At any given time, you can spot him at any one of his restaurants or out in the community, practicing what he preaches.
“I get to play with food everyday and create,” Thames said. “The only limitation is my own imagination. I couldn’t ask for a better gig.”