About Us - Foodcraft at Gulf State Park
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About Us

Here at Foodcraft, our passion for food is apparent in every dish we serve. We’re proud to offer a fun, filling, family-oriented dining experience showcasing extraordinary cuisine utilizing the finest seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, either indoors or alfresco on the patio overlooking the beautiful Gulf Coast.

Foodcraft dining area with Gulf views
contemporary restaurant outdoor seating

The Connecticut native comes to Gulf Shores from Biloxi, Mississippi where he honed his skills at the Beau Rivage Casino, an MGM International Resort. Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Balster also learned the art of cooking as a Chef at the renowned Ritz Carlton, Reynolds Plantation and Circa at DuPont, in Washington D.C.

James’ pursuit of his culinary career stems from spending time with family. “The first experience I remember about cooking was on my grandparent’s farm in Iowa,” says Balster. Cooking was always a family event growing up. All family gatherings seemed to end up in the kitchen or at the table, and always involving a large meal. Being a part of the creation of these amazing times brought me closer to my family, and I realized that it made unforgettable memories by making people happy.” James is still in pursuit of creating memories for his guests by making them happy.

Chef Balster has many favorite recipes he likes to prepare, and he relishes in designing experiences that are unique and satisfy the most discerning palate. When dining at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, make a point to try a daily Chef’s special which always includes local and regionally sourced ingredients and always is a representation of The Lodge’s support of local farmers, fishers, ranchers and producers.

Chef Balster slicing a roast on a wooden cutting board.

Balster has received several accolades, including the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Award and Forbes’ Recommended Best Chefs.

Chef Balster has led the culinary efforts at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel, as part of the pre-opening team. The Lodge officially opened November 1, 2018.