Fremont, meet Brian O'Connor — the new chef at Roux. Don't you worry your hush puppies about a thing, the restaurant super-pro promises to bring big things to your favorite Creole restaurant.
As of last week, O'Connor has taken over the kitchen, but he tells Eater that it could've been much sooner. "Matt [Lewis] and I chatted about having me come in to take over the kitchen gig about four months ago. I was intrigued at the possibility of being the chef at such a great restaurant, but I was really pushing to have some free time with my family, with a baby on the way." Fast forward, and a second offer prompted O'Connor to reflect on the opportunity and jump on it.
For the last two years, O'Connor has been opening restaurants in Seattle and beyond. He opened The Peached Tortilla in Austin, Texas just recently, with stints popping open Quality Athletics, Hollywood Tavern, and Skillet on Capitol Hill before that. A partner at Huxley Wallace, O'Connor served as VP of Culinary Operations during that time, and is still connected to the machine over there. He had moved away from day-to-day business while scouting his own restaurant and consulting on other projects, including a project called Sweetgrass slated for August.
As for the move to Roux, it comes from a long history with southern food. "I'm a sucker for great creole food," O'Connor says. "My first real restaurant job was in Baltimore with Cindy Wolf at Savannah. The experience helped to mold my love for southern food."
Between Baltimore and Huxley Wallace, he worked at Blueacre and Steelhead Diner, matching Chefs Kevin Davis and Anthony Polizzi pound for po'boy. ("Those guys have unparalleled southern chops," O'Connor says.)
Now that he's got Roux's popular menu under his control, he's hoping to bring a little soul back to the restaurant. "I want people smiling and anticipating greatness." Expect the menu to remain mostly the same for the time being, with some major tweaks in the near-future. "People can expect to see classic southern dishes, like stuffed Mirliton, redfish on the half shell, that kind of thing." Also in the culinary queue? Kalbi gator tail and turtle dumplings...
Welcome to the new Roux!