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Local chef receives James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award

Patrick O’Connell is the chef and proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington. (Courtesy The Inn at Little Washington)

The James Beard Foundation announced today that Virginia chef Patrick O’Connell is the recipient of its 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

O’Connell is the chef and proprietor of the three-star Michelin restaurant The Inn at Little Washington, which he opened 40 years ago in Washington, Virginia — about 90 minutes outside D.C. He is also a five-time James Beard Award winner and holds numerous accolades, including five stars from the Forbes Travel Guide.

A D.C. native and self-taught chef, O’Connell opened his restaurant in a former auto repair garage in Virginia’s Shenandoah countryside, and over the years converted it into a luxury destination. When the Michelin Guide came to the D.C. area in 2016, it awarded two stars to The Inn at Little Washington. In 2018, The Inn earned its third star, making it the only three-star Michelin restaurant in the D.C. area.

According to The James Beard Foundation, its Lifetime Achievement Award “is bestowed upon a person in the industry whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, and think about food in America.”

In a news release, the Foundation praised O’Connell as a pioneer of the local food movement, saying, “Long before the farm-to-table movement had a name, he began cultivating fruitful relationships with his neighbors — many of whom have a strong connection to the land.”

O’Connell will receive the award at the annual James Beard Awards gala in Chicago on May 6.

Several D.C.-area chefs and restaurants are semifinalists for this year’s awards, including Elle and Spoken English in the category of Best New Restaurant; Columbia Room in the category of Outstanding Bar Program; Vikram Sunderam and Fabio Trabocchi in the category of Outstanding Chef; Pichet Ong in the category of Outstanding Pastry Chef; Jaleo and Komi in the category of Outstanding Restaurant; Ruth Gresser in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur; Marcel’s and Peking Gourmet Inn in the category of Outstanding Service; Tail Up Goat in the category of Outstanding Wine Program; Kwame Onwuachi in the category of Rising Star Chef of the Year; and Amy Brandwein, Erik Bruner-Yang, Tom Cunanan, Jerome Grant, Haidar Karoum, Jon Sybert, Kevin Tien and Nobu Yamazaki in the category of Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.

Final nominees in these categories will be announced on March 27; winners will be announced at the May 6 awards gala.

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