As The Inn at Little Washington soon sets itself to celebrate a milestone 40th Anniversary, instead of beginning this story with Once upon a time, let’s just imagine it all as “A MAGNIFICENT DREAM”. In 1978, a young Patrick O’Connell opened his tiny restaurant in an old building, in a little town in one of the smallest, least populated, but most picturesque counties in Virginia. By the mid-eighties, he greeted his first Inn guests, and by 1987 The Inn at Little Washington became a member of Relais & Chateaux, the luxury hotel association based in Paris. O’Connell, by the way, has been its North American President for over the last 12 years. Two years later his inn was honored with the first ever Mobil Travel Guide 5 star award, and the following year another first, two 5 stars, one each for The Inn and his restaurant.
Over the next ten years, Chef Patrick O’Connell would be awarded by the James Beard Foundation, Best Chef Mid Atlantic Region, Outstanding Chef in America, and The Outstanding Restaurant in America. The flow of prestigious national and international awards would continue, along with hundreds of magazine covers, feature articles, television appearances and yes, those coveted Michelin Stars!
Known as the Pope of American Cuisine, Chef Patrick O’Connell is quite simply an exceptional culinary pioneer. But as a business person, O’Connell has done what few could have ever imagined and embodies those words, build it and they will come! He doesn’t look at his inn or restaurant as most might think, but rather as theater and he’s meticulous about it. Everything from lighting, design, placement, presentation and certainly, customer service, are there to create an extraordinary guest experience. In fact, he shares of his staff’s training, “What we are teaching has more to do with life skills than restaurant skills.” But O’Connell has not only created a world-class restaurant and inn, which competes with exotic European castles. He has done a great deal for the little town of Washington, the rural county of Rappahannock and the state of Virginia. Keep in mind, with Virginia’s bustling wine industry today, The Inn at Little Washington was schooling patrons on the art of fine wine before most had even heard the word – Sommelier!
Creative, clever, and quite humorous are deep within this man’s DNA. It’s so fitting then for his 40th Anniversary to be named “A MAGNIFICENT DREAM”. Over the years having collaborated on so many projects with “Chef”, as his staff refers to him, I was again honored by him choosing me to create the celebratory painting by the same name. “We like nothing more than throwing a party.”, O’Connell shares. “It energizes and exhilarates us, and reminds people that life is worth living!” So much so that he’s actually throwing three parties, “something for everyone!”
The first, on June 16, 2018, at historic Mt. Vernon, pays tribute to George Washington, who as a young surveyor became “so interconnected with our village of Little Washington.” O’Connell and his talented staff will magically revisit history by transforming the grounds of the picturesque home of our first President into a magnificent evening of splendor! As with his 30th Anniversary, this party will too include the country’s most respected chefs dining with guests, while enjoying culinary delights and fireworks over of the Potomac River. Proceeds from this event will benefit Mt. Vernon and co-hosts, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
Paying tribute to O’Connell’s French inspirations, the second party will truly be a once in a lifetime European gala taking place at the greatest chateaux ever built, Vaux le Vicomte, 40 minutes outside of Paris. The 15,000 s.f. palace was built in 1661 by Louis XIV’s minister of finance, Nicolas Fouquet, and sits on 1,200 acres of vast Parisian gardens. Limited to 150 guests, this rare experience will be one for the history books.
The Third party will be a two-day Woodstock-like summer festival reunion. Open to the public and to include The Inn’s past chefs and former employees, this event will be more relaxed, with music, a bonfire, and glamping! Think of it as luxury camping. Proceeds from this event will benefit O’Connell’s Foundation.
Patrick O’Connell and his extraordinary kitchen staff still wear their iconic Dalmatian print pants, and now a new spotted mascot named Luray can be found greeting guests. Patrick says of his new pet pooch, “He’s been a genuine delight and gift!” When asked about his four long decade milestone and success, O’Connell truly sees food as art and shares of his Inn’s longevity, “It’s this quality of being able to be adaptable and nimble, but always our most immediate priority is making our guests happy anyway we can. For me, the definition of true luxury is when no compromise was made for the quality.”
For more information about “The Magnificent Dream” and The Inn at Little Washington’s 40th Anniversary, please visit – TheInnAtLittleWashington.com