Kennedy family chef to cook up dining hall storm

Dear my fellow food-lovers,

Every year Williams Dining Services invites accomplished chefs to travel to Williamstown to train our cooking staff and spruce up our dining hall fare. This Thursday, April 17, Greylock Dining Hall will boast perhaps the most famous chef yet, when world-renowned former Kennedy family chef Neil Connolly whips up an unforgettable meal open to the whole campus. (Greylock opens at 5:30!) The most recent visitor was Chef Gary Arthur of Texas AM University, who spiced up the Martin Luther King Dinner, and before him Chef Ken Bergeron dazzled our menus with his vegan cooking knowledge.

Chef Connolly, a Massachusetts native but current Florida resident, made his way up the eastern seaboard to the Berkshires yesterday to tour the campus and conduct training sessions with our own Dining Services unit chefs. These dining hall chefs will then collaborate with Chef Connolly on Thursday’s specialty meal.

Chef Connolly has been working in the restaurant business since he was 14, and his career has spanned over three decades. Among his numerous and prestigious awards he has garnered four gold medals at the Culinary Olympics, been honored as a distinguished visiting chef at Johnson and Wales University, received the President’s Award for Professional Attainment in the Field of Culinary Arts and, perhaps most notably, was admitted in 2006 to the James Beard Foundation (the Oscars of the food world!) and subsequently cooked for the Foundation dinner the same year.

Beyond his stints cooking on the Cape and in country clubs, he is most well known for the 11 years he spent in the kitchen of the Kennedy family. Preparing meals for between six and 1500 people, Connolly was treated as part of the famed family during his time with them. He first entered the Kennedy household after receiving a call from a member of the family requesting his services for a same-day feast serving 60 people. Soon after, he was brought on full time.

Last April, Connolly released a cookbook, “In the Kennedy Kitchen,” filled with photos, stories and favorite recipes of the Camelot family. (He will be signing books in Greylock on Thursday as well.) After leaving the Kennedy kitchen in 1995 he worked at a country club in Plymouth, Mass., for nine years before moving down to Orlando, Fla., with his wife. Four years ago, Connolly began his first restaurant, Doc’s, which has since shot to the top of many must-try restaurants. Offering a melange of traditional New England flavors and Florida’s tropical sensibilities, Doc’s offers a casual fare that appeals to the most enlightened diner. After two days and one blow out meal at Williams, we can only hope that he brings the best of both worlds to our Williams College dining halls. So come check it out!

Tastefully yours,

Molly Hunter ’09