When Patrick O’Connell, the self-taught chef behind the critically acclaimed Inn at Little Washington, received the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award this past spring, he was recognized for his dedication to “refined, regional American cuisine in the Virginia countryside” and working with local farmers and artisan producers long before the farm-to-table movement even had a name. A quick glance at the sample menu shows a “Tin of Sin” with Imperial Osetra Caviar, Chesapeake Blue Crab, and Cucumber Rillette, as well as a “Lilliputian Mandarin and Vanilla Dreamsicle”—in addition to several James Beard Awards, the impressive spread also earned him three Michelin stars in the Washington D.C. guide last year, making The Inn at Little Washington the first restaurant to earn the distinction. Now, to give people a behind-the-curtains peek at the road that led to these awards, The Inn at Little Washington is going to be featured in a documentary—The Inn at Little Washington: A Delicious New Documentary—set to release on PBS in early 2020.
Filmed over the course of the last two and a half years, the documentary features behind-the-scenes interviews with O’Connell, as well as his current staff at The Inn, including General Manager Robert Fasce, Senior Sous Chef Julian Eckhardt, Fromager and Tea Master Cameron Smith, and more. The moment that the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars was captured, as was the news about O’Connell’s lifetime achievement award—overall, the film shows how the chef turned a former garage into the world-renowned restaurant it is today. And while it won’t be hitting PBS for several more months, the documentary will premiere at the 2019 Virginia Film Festival on Sunday, October 27—tickets can be purchased starting Monday, September 30 at the festival's website.
O’Connell’s documentary is the latest announcement in a busy year for the food entertainment industry. Chef Vivian Howard announced her new PBS show, South by Somewhere, over the summer, which is also scheduled to premiere in 2020—according to the network, it will "explore savory dishes uniting people and creating new traditions across the American South,” rather than focusing on a single ingredient like her previous docu-series, A Chef’s Life. Top Chef host and judge Padma Lakshmi has a project in the works, too, which has been described as “a living cookbook made up more from people and culture than recipes” that dives into culinary traditions from "the first Americans to the latest arrivals." The series, which doesn’t have a name or premiere date yet, will live on Hulu and start with 10 half-hour episodes for the first installment.