The Dish: Patrick O’Connell Q&A

by Editorial

Patrick O’Connell, renowned chef of The Inn at Little Washington, dishes about his favorite foods, pet goat, and more.

Chef Patrick O'Connell. (Photo by Gordon Bealle)

Best known for

The Inn at Little Washington

Most creative dish

Beef Two Ways: Pecan Crusted Barbecued Short Rib alongside a Miniature Filet Mignon Enrobed in Swiss Chard

What do you eat for breakfast?

Whatever local fresh fruit is in season, yogurt, and a big bowl of oatmeal with honey and warm milk from my neurotic goat.

What is your drink of choice?

In the kitchen it’s a “Culpeper Shandy”: 2/3 fine Belgian wheat beer and 1/3 fresh lemonade on ice. In the warmth of the summer sun I drink Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. It always makes me feel like I’m in the south of France. With good food I like to begin with a glass of Mersault — not too cold.

Favorite cookbook other than your own?

There are two: For nostalgic reasons, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The visually stunning book Cuisine Naturelle by Georges Blanc has always been an inspiration.

If you could make dinner for anyone living or dead who would it be?

I’d have Barbra, Liza, Bette, Liz and Cher all at the same table with the Pope.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

I’ve gotten beyond guilt — at least in the arena of food.

What’s your death row meal?

One should always fast before submitting to an execution.

What special dish do you make for the holidays?

We’re open and working on every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s and the kitchen is my favorite place to be at those festive times. Everything tastes especially wonderful and the turkey soup the next day is divine.

Best dish/worse dish?

“Memories may be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget.” Fortunately I’ve eaten a lot more good than bad. But the best dish is still to come.

What is your cooking philosophy?

Good cooking requires a clear point of view and, like all art forms, is a vehicle for communication. Food cannot lie. It can’t help but tell the story of the cook so it’s important to be conscious of the story you want to tell. I continually remind my staff that it’s either art or garbage – there’s nothing in between.

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