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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Attention to Detail

I think I was watching Bloomberg TV one Saturday night when Patrick O’Connell was on. He’s the chef and founder of the Inn at Little Washington. I’ve never been there but my favorite local chef Kevin Binkley worked with him, so the interview piqued my curiosity. The Inn at Little Washington is celebrating its thirtieth year this year, and has received Mobil’s Five Star Awards for both the restaurant and accommodations for the last fourteen years. Additionally, Patrick O’Connell has received the James Beard award for most outstanding chef in America in 2001. Patrick hasn’t had formal training as a chef, but he has been working in the kitchen since he was 15 years old. He had a catering business in 1972. He opened the restaurant with his former partner in 1978 in an old abandoned gas station in a town of 300 residents, 67 miles from Washington DC. The restaurant was immediately successful, aided by a glowing review in the Washington Star by John Rosson. Before John published the review, he warned Patrick he would need to hire someone to answer his phone because people would be swarming to the restaurant. He was right. Many articles have since been written, notably one by Craig Claiborne of The New York Times, who called it “the most magnificent inn I’ve ever seen, in this country or Europe, where I had the most fantastic meal of my life”. Note to self: I must go there before I die.