One-on-One: JP Holland + Van Sykes


Food was the key to the conversation during this installment of One on One. Normally we put together people from different lines of work, but this pairing seemed compelling enough to tweak our system a bit.

The chef/owner of Fig Tree Cafe in Cahaba Heights, JP Holland is a self-taught chef who never stops learning. Holland works closely with all of his farmers, sourcing the highest quality meats and greens and providing his customers with something they will never forget. Each night the menu is dictated by what he has obtained from his farmers, taking farm-to-table to a whole new level. Fig Tree Café’s secret weapon is the unassuming vibe and ever-changing menu.

Fig Tree Café began as a catering company operating out of a local church. It then turned into a brick and mortar, meat-and-three restaurant with mismatched furniture and eclectic art on the walls collected from returning customers. Today, Fig Tree Café is working to take the pretentiousness out of fine dining and create menu items that allow patrons to experience the emotions that good food evokes, while focusing on locally grown ingredients.

Fig Tree Café announced major renovations and expanded offerings recently. The cafe, which opened its doors in 2014, has doubled its seating capacity, added a full bar serving craft cocktails and increased the size of the kitchen to allow renowned chef and owner JP Holland to be even more creative with expanded menu offerings and an increased focus on specialty grilled meats.

Now meat is something that Van Sykes knows a bit about. A second-generation barbecue restaurateur, Sykes literally grew up in the restaurant helping his parents, Bob and Maxine Sykes at the Bessemer BBQ place they founded in 1957. That makes this year the 60th anniversary of this family restaurant. For decades, Bob Sykes has been known for barbecuing pork and chicken the old-fashioned way, over slow fires of hickory wood, giving the meat a unique flavor.

Sykes also gives his hometown of Bessemer a unique sound. This month (May 20) marks the 8th annual edition of the Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival in DeBardeleben Park in Bessemer. The festival features six great blue acts, performing for local blues fans. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the festival runs until 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 ($20 the day of the show). You can buy tickets on-line at

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