Patrick O'Connell

Chef/Restaurateur

Washington

Patrick O'Connell is chef and proprietor of Five-Star The Inn at Little Washington, a Virginia restaurant and inn that opened in 1978 in a former garage and that has evolved from a simple country inn to an international culinary shrine. A self-taught chef who pioneered a refined, regional cuisine, his alliance with local farmers and artisanal producers was born of necessity more than 30 years ago when nothing but milk was delivered to “Little” Washington, Va. (population 158). O'Connell and The Inn have won five awards from the James Beard Foundation, including Restaurant of the Year in 1993 and the prestigious Outstanding American Chef Award for 2001. O'Connell is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in the Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University, and the author of two best-selling cookbooks.

  • On August 23, 2012
    Patrick O'Connell answered the question: Patrick O'Connell

    How has Patrick O'Connell's cooking style changed over the years?

    It’s changed because people used to ask that question and my eyes would cross. I knew they were looking for one word: Japanese, French maybe Northern Italian. They wanted a handle so that they could then pre-attach all of their preconceived negative baggage to it. I felt as if it was asking to have your personality described in three words or less.

    Initially 30 years ago, people in our culture tended to think that French cuisine was the only benchmark, or if it wasn’t French, you couldn’t charge very much money for it. So naturally it was very heavily French influenced at the outset. In fact, there were quite a few French words on the menu. Then, I realized what I wanted more than anything else was to give people a sense of place to share this wonderful part of the world, which for me was not only home, but was my lifesaver.

    At that point, I began to feature more and more of the region. Then, we began growing more and more. Pretty soon it was a Regional American Cuisine. What I had been doing was refining and evolving some of these early taste memories that I grew up with, which are part of my heritage and that I should be as proud of as somebody who grew up in Lyon. Now I’m able to reduce the description of my cuisine into three words and it is: Refined American Cuisine.
  • On August 23, 2012
    Patrick O'Connell answered the question: Patrick O'Connell

    What is Patrick O'Connell's approach to a great dining experience?

    Typically a chef focuses on the food — looks only at the food. But the food might be going out to a chaotic — too loud — fractured kind of environment with bad lighting. The food might be spectacular in and of itself, but the experience might be grossly lacking. So I like to take the whole thing in, the way a film director would, and try to bring it all to the same level. It sounds easy, but the tiniest little flaw then unbalances the whole picture. It is quite a challenge to bring the staff into that idea that they’re actually participating in not just a theatrical production, but a film in which the guest is the star.
  • On August 23, 2012
    Patrick O'Connell answered the question: Patrick O'Connell

    What is Patrick O'Connell's approach to a great dining experience?

    Typically a chef focuses on the food — looks only at the food. But the food might be going out to a chaotic — too loud — fractured kind of environment with bad lighting. The food might be spectacular in and of itself, but the experience might be grossly lacking. So I like to take the whole thing in, the way a film director would, and try to bring it all to the same level. It sounds easy, but the tiniest little flaw then unbalances the whole picture. It is quite a challenge to bring the staff into that idea that they’re actually participating in not just a theatrical production, but a film in which the guest is the star.