After several months without a chef de cuisine, at The Oakroom restaurant at the Seelbach Hotel has named Patrick Roney the man for the job.

Heather and Patrick Roney.

Roney filled the void left by Bobby Benjamin, who left the restaurant to become executive chef at La Coop Bistro a Vins earlier this year.

Roney, who served as head chef for five months at Avalon until its sudden closing in July, was a private chef on ocean-going yachts for the past several years.

Aware of The Oakroom’s reputation, Roney said he’s humbled to have been offered the job today.

“They’ve still got to do a background check on me, but I don’t have too many skeletons in my closet, so I think I’m safe,” joked Roney, who officially starts Sept. 4. “The Oakroom has been held in such high regard for so long in Louisville that I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work here.”

In the job, Roney will have the guidance of Jim Gerhardt, chef-owner of Limestone Restaurant, and who has worked as a consultant to restaurant for several years now.  Gerhardt helped The Oakroom achieve its AAA Five-Diamond rating back in the 1990s.

He said he’s happy the present staff appears solid, giving him an experienced crew to start with. Though he was pleasantly surprised to see an advertisement in this morning’s Courier-Journal for a line cook.

“It gave me hope to not see the ad for the chef de cuisine anymore,” he said. “I’ve got a candidate in mind, a guy who worked with me at Avalon.”

Roney had to endure two cooking auditions before getting the job: one with five people standing in the kitchen watching him cook and eating his food in front of him; and a second in which he got to plate the food “the way I like it and have it served properly.”

His “pheasant under glass” dish that stole the show at the June APRON fundraiser was part of his audition menu. It is a knockout.

Asked if The Oakroom kitchen’s lack of windows would bother a chef who spent so many years able to see the ocean just feet from the kitchen, Roney said not really.

“So many times as I was stepping out onto the deck, I was dreaming of being in a kitchen with a bunch of guys talking about how many covers you did that night, how good the service went, experiencing that camaraderie,” said Roney, who typically worked solo on yachts. “There’s definitely benefits on both sides, and I’m ready for this one.”

Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.


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