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.