Philosophy & Perspectives
I was supposed to have become an actor but soon found the living theater of the restaurant world more compelling than the stage. Running a restaurant allows me to be the producer, director, set designer, and lead player in a wonderfully fractured nightly performance in which the world of complete illusion in the dining room is brilliantly juxtaposed with the blood-and-guts reality of the kitchen. Sometimes it seems like a Broadway show that won’t quit – calamities happen, but somehow the show still opens every night.
Ever since we opened The Inn at Little Washington in 1978 I’ve never really thought of it as a restaurant – just a hideaway in the country owned by someone who likes to entertain a lot. For over 30 years it has felt as if we’ve been hosting one continuous house party. A successful party, like a great film or work of art, elevates the spirit, makes people feel life is worth living and enhances a guest’s self esteem.
We try to convey a sense of place at The Inn by making use of the abundance of wonderful products from our region, which the French call a “cuisine de terroir.” We try to elevate these fine, earthy ingredients and use them in unique and interesting new ways while still preserving the soulful flavors and memories we associate with them. Most of my favorite dishes are the simplest and depend on a few ingredients of the finest quality. I like food to appear effortless in its presentation – as though it dropped on the plate from the sky or was blown on it by a gentle breeze – never touched by human hands – or stacked and tortured as was the trend for a while.
It has taken me a long time to realize that what I’ve been doing over the last three decades at The Inn at Little Washington is evolving and refining many of the dishes I grew up with and making them relevant to a new century while keeping their soul intact – building a sort of culinary bridge between the past and future.