For chefs and restaurateurs, the only thing better than being awarded a Michelin Star may be earning multiple, retaining them and then becoming the first in the nation's capitol to earn a new distinction for sustainability.
Chef Patrick O’Connell has done just that with his prestigious and picturesque establishment, The Inn at Little Washington, which has officially retained its three Michelin Stars and received a Green Star, the Michelin Guide announced Thursday.
"It was a delightful, wonderful surprise and a great reward after a difficult year here and for our industry," O'Connell told "Good Morning America" of winning the new star.
"I think it's a brilliant move and a great contribution on their part to do what they can to further interest and acknowledgment in world sustainability," he added. "Chefs can set a wonderful example, and these days it means a great deal to the public, to our guests and clientele. It pleases them enormously to know that the restaurant that they're patronizing is making an effort along those lines."
Michelin Guide France debuted the Green Star in January 2020 to recognize restaurants with a strong commitment to sustainable gastronomy and environmental protection.
"We didn’t anticipate it coming as quickly as it did to the U.S., but it demonstrates how seriously Michelin is taking the whole movement and playing a key role," O'Connell added.
For 43 years, O’Connell and his team at the Inn at Little Washington, have been pioneers in regional American cuisine while utilizing indigenous products sourced from local farmers, ranchers and the Inn’s own sprawling gardens.
His ingenuity in the kitchen and deep respect for seasonal ingredients -- like transforming a freshly grown beet into a bougainvillea-hued cylinder, perfectly braised in vegetable stock and coated in peppercorns cooked au Poivre style that would rival a carnivore's filet mignon order -- made him the very first and only three-starred chef in Washington D.C.
The famed gastronomic guide gives its highest three-star accolade to restaurants that are "worth a special journey," and at 80 miles outside the nation’s capitol, The Inn at Little Washington serving foraged foods like morels from the Virginia woods certainly fits the bill.
"This new collection of restaurants brings together chefs with a common cause, whose inspiring and virtuous initiatives and methods help to raise awareness of the importance of environmental issues," the Michelin Guide U.S. said in a statement. "Inspectors consider the entire ecosystem of a restaurant and gather information about chefs’ practices and their philosophy on sustainable gastronomy."
The Inn runs a Farmer in Residence program that employs two full-time farmers and five gardeners, has greenhouses for herbs and lettuces in the winter and a beekeeper who takes care of hives that supplies their our own honey. It has "Red Star" chickens for egg production, and staff works diligently to reduce plastic consumption as well as upcycle organic food trimmings to be used for compost and vegetable trimmings to feed chickens and goats on the farm.
When O'Connell opened in 1978 he said, "it was sort of an offshoot of the little farm that was my home that I lived on," harkening back to a time in the region where "everyone prided themselves on self-sufficiency."
"When we decided to open the restaurant because I had an obsession with cooking and wanted a broader audience, we realized that nothing would be delivered to us here except milk, so we would have to find alternative sources for everything we were using," he explained. "We discovered there was a network of local farmers each specializing in one or two products, and a refined regional American cuisine for us was born out of necessity. And it has continued to evolve, and we realized that not only does the food taste better and was fresher, but it encouraged a stronger sense of place when people made the journey to come to us."
O’Connell has strived to emulate the three Michelin Star experience of “the great country inns of France” to offer his own visitors “a taste of our region and give you something in that moment that you would not be able to find anywhere else in the world.”
Washington chef Patrick O'Connell awarded 1st Michelin Green Star in DC originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com