With a focus on creative American cuisine, award-winning chef and owner Kevin Gaudreau, former culinary director for the Newport Restaurant Group, is making his mark on Hope Street. The Jamestown native shares with us how he got started as a chef, what KitchenBar’s menu has in store and what makes Rhode Island’s culinary circuit so magical.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I decided I wanted to be a chef in my late 20s. I spent time in the Marine Corps and when I got out, I was working in restaurants. I started as a dishwasher in college and came up the ranks. I wasn’t planning on being a chef, I just kind of fell into it. I originally wanted to be a teacher. But when I got into my late 20s, I was working with some great chefs and they were making some good money, so I thought, ‘I could do this.’ Plus, I liked the creative outlet that cooking allowed me to have. I tried to find the best restaurants I could work in. The chefs always took me under their wing and showed me the ropes, and I was able to turn it into a career.
You’ve worked in some notable Rhode Island kitchens and even opened a few restaurants in New York City.
Yes. I worked at BR Guest, which is a big restaurant group in New York City. Through that opportunity, I opened Atlantic Grill and a place called Ruby Foo’s on Broadway. I worked at pretty much all the restaurants in the group. I would bounce around and help out the different chefs as things came up. When I decided to move back to Rhode Island, the White Horse Tavern in Newport – the oldest restaurant in America – hired me. I was there for a couple years and loved it.
What is it about the Rhode Island culinary scene you find to be so attractive?
This state has a really talented group of chefs. We also have a lot of unique restaurant groups. We’ve got Asian food, Mexican food, creative American cuisine, steakhouses, a bit of everything. I was talking with some guests last night who live in Boston, and they said they think Rhode Island has a better food scene than Boston because in Rhode Island, everything is so compact. Boston has great restaurants. I don’t want to start a turf war, but I think we have phenomenal restaurateurs and chefs working in Rhode Island. We’re very close-knit – I could call up ten chefs and ask them a question and they’d be very forthcoming with helping me out.
You just changed KitchenBar’s menu. What can you tell us about it?
I kept one or two things from the previous owner to maintain that touch with him. We’re now offering a more creative American approach, and we’re going to use local ingredients whenever possible. I’m using some fresh seafood, octopus from Spain and I’ve got a couple of vegetarian options on there, including a farro and roasted vegetable dish. We still offer pizzas – this place started out as a pizza joint about 20 years ago. It’s not my focus but it’s available. Lunch and dinner is offered seven days a week, and we’re starting an awesome Sunday brunch. The brunch menu includes breakfast tacos, Benedicts, chicken and chorizo hash, and lots more.
I’m looking forward to the spring when we can put our seats outside and offer some al fresco dining.
What dishes have been popular so far?
We serve fresh-made pasta, and the Bolognese is going over really well. The dish includes veal and beef ragout, wagon wheel rigatoni, ricotta cheese and fire-roasted tomatoes. So is the beef short rib with root vegetables and sweet potato puree. People are going nuts for an appetizer called the Polenta Board. It actually comes out on a big board and is a creamy, soft polenta with charred cauliflower, oven roasted shiitake mushrooms and veal meatballs in a harissa marinara, so it’s got a spicy, peppery sauce. I think it’s all going pretty well. We’re having to produce everything every day, so we’re selling everything.
771 Hope Street