Chef/Proprietor – The Inn at Little Washington
Patrick O’Connell, a native of Washington, DC, is a self-taught chef who pioneered a refined, regional American cuisine in the Virginia countryside. His alliance with local farmers and artisanal producers was an adaptation born of necessity more than 30 years ago when nothing but milk was delivered to the tiny town of “Little” Washington, VA (pop. 158). Long before the farm to table movement had a name, he began cultivating fruitful relationships with his neighbors — many of whom have a strong connection to the land and a heritage of self sufficiency.
The Inn at Little Washington opened in a former garage in 1978 and has evolved from a simple country inn to an international culinary shrine. Its legend is multi-faceted; some view it as a classic, inspirational American success story — reaffirming that dreams can come true. Others focus on The Inn’s pioneering efforts in the evolution of American cuisine. Preservationists marvel at the positive effects such a place has had on one of America’s few remaining unspoiled, historic small towns. Students of business study The Inn as an unlikely business model and try to analyze what makes it work seemingly against all odds.
O’Connell has been referred to as “the Pope of American Cuisine”. His orientation is different from most chefs today primarily because he considers himself to be a restaurateur and as the title implies, his goal is to actually restore and heal people – the preparation and presentation of food being but a single element in the process. Selecting The Inn at Little Washington as one of the top ten restaurants in the world, Patricia Wells of The International Herald Tribune hails O’Connell as “a rare chef with a sense of near perfect taste, like a musician with perfect pitch.”
Patrick has evolved and refined many of the dishes from his childhood, making them relevant in a new century while keeping their soul intact – building a sort of culinary bridge between past and future. His commitment as an Ambassador of American Cuisine has fueled his involvement in the international association, Relais & Chateaux, where he currently serves as President of Relais & Chateaux North America. On the occasion of The Inn at Little Washington’s 30th Anniversary, O’Connell commissioned a documentary film celebrating the evolution of American cuisine over the last three decades and honored 30 American culinary pioneers who helped make this transformation possible. His American Culinary Pioneer Award continues to be given annually.
Patrick’s dedication to community and charitable causes is a focal point in his life – from serving as Chairman of the Archtictural Review Board of Washington, Virginia to leveraging his career milestones to benefit national and global charity initiatives with organizations such as Share Our Strength and Population Services International. The 30th anniversary raised $650,000 for children’s health programs YouthAids and Five & Alive.
Both O’Connell and The Inn at Little Washington have enjoyed enormous national and international recognition. The Inn became America’s first 5 Star country house hotel and the first establishment in the Mobil Travel Guide’s history to ever receive two 5 Star Awards-one for its restaurant, the other for its accommodations. The Inn also received AAA’s highest accolades: two 5 Diamond Awards and is rated number one in all categories year after year by the Washington D.C. Zagat Restaurant Survey. O’Connell and The Inn have won five awards from the James Beard Foundation including Restaurant of the Year in 1993, Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic Region and the prestigious Outstanding American Chef Award for 2001. O’Connell was one of the original inductees into “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America” and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in the Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University.
O’Connell is the author of the best selling cookbook, The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook, A Consuming Passion. Of his second book, Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine, Governor Mark Warner said “Not since Thomas Jefferson first brought tomatoes to Virginia and the New World has one man created such interest in the culinary arts.” O’Connell was asked to cook for Queen Elizabeth at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond on her recent visit to Virginia. Through Relais & Chateaux he staged a dinner celebrating the coming of age of American Cuisine in Paris and participated along with Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Charlie Trotter in the American Food Revolution in Oxford, England. He has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, the CBS Early Show, the Martha Stewart Show, Top Chef, the Diane Rehm Show, the Charlie Rose Show and is a frequent guest speaker at The Smithsonian Institution and The Culinary Institute of America.
Patrick’s Facebook Page
Several times a week Patrick is sharing some of his culinary delights and pleasures from Little Washington, Big Washington and around the world. Please follow him on Facebook and share your thoughts.