If Patrick O’Connell had continued on his initial career path and become an actor, it is possible that by now he would have a Tony and an Oscar on his mantel. Instead, he decided to become a chef, and his Inn at Little Washington has garnered just about every award in his field. O’Connell and his partner Reinhardt Lynch orchestrate meals at the Inn so that – as in theater – the audience is totally absorbed in the experience.
The Inn at Little Washington is located about sixty miles from “big” Washington in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains. Selected Restaurant of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 1993, the Inn is one of the few American properties in the prestigious French Relais & Chateaux organization. The Mobil Travel Guide awarded the Inn five stars, and Zagat’s guide lauded O’Connell’s cuisine as the best in the region.
As a drama major at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., O’Connell worked at various eateries, both in the kitchen and as a waiter. After graduation, he traveled extensively, trying to decide on a direction for his life. When he returned to Washington, he embarked on a seven year self-styled apprenticeship in area restaurants and spent a summer at the Culinary Institute of America.
After settling in the Virginia countryside, O’Connell and Lynch began operating a catering business, and soon guests were urging them to cater to the city. Driving back and forth to Washington did not last long, however, and in 1978 they bought an old garage in the tiny hamlet of “little” Washington.
Now the same food distributors who originally were reluctant to drive so far to service the Inn clamor for their business, and local farmers raise produce especially for the restaurant. While O’Connell relies on the basics of French cooking, he is also interested in traditional Virginia ingredients in his kitchen, such as local hams, trout, Virginia wild duck, and herbs and garnishes from the gardens of the townspeople. Dishes such as Medallions of Veal Shenandoah with Local Wild Morels; Local Asparagus Salad with Toasted Pistachios; and Sauteed Soft Shell Crabs with Hazelnuts are examples of O’Connell’s innovative style.
Desserts, too, are a favorite of O’Connell’s. “I want the meal to end on a dramatic note,” he says, and even the title of his White Chocolate Mousse in Bed Between Dark Silky Sheets deserves a curtain call.
The Great Chefs team showed up to the Inn in May of 1993, and O’Connell prepared three dishes: Sauteed Soft Shell Crab for the Great Chefs of the East series (episode #44); Rhubarb Pizza for the Great Chefs – Great Cities series (episode #34); and Filet Mignon of Tuna and Foie Gras for the Great Chefs special, Great American Inns.
Phone : 540-675-3800
Address : 309 Middle St, Washington, VA 22747