Ok, slow down, Chef Kevin, you’ve got a lot on your plate….I mean that literally and figuratively.
I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Kevin O’Neil of EP Experience Catering at the Flavors of Connecticut Gala at the Aqua Club in Southington last month for the American Liver Foundation. Chefs from all over the state come out for the foundation’s signature event and what an event it is. No one is paid, but everyone gives one hundred percent of their time, effort, and creativity for such a great cause. Chefs and their crew turn everything up a notch and create a special event for the guests that will be seated around their tables. It becomes a party within a party and each diner enters a world of the chef and crew’s creation. From a Ziggy Stardust theme table complete with smoke and music to a French Revolution scene decked out with a guillotine (!), many tapped the artist within and created a theatrical experience where in the food was the bonus. Others kept their space more classic with bursts of color from flowers and dishware or a built-on-the-premises rustic pergola. Either way, creative people came together for a tremendous show of that artistic flare and amazing food, for a great cause.
Katelyn Muolo, the events manager for the event said, “[The] 18th Annual Flavors of Connecticut was a huge success and we could not have done this without the support and generosity of our sponsors, volunteers, and of course, incredible chefs!” Nearly $300,000 was raised for the American Liver Foundation that night.
And, Kevin O’Neil is hands down one of those incredible chefs. His table for the catering company he manages with his wife, Patrice, An EP Experience, was ELEGANT with gorgeous glassware, palm trees, and flowers. The vibe was Caribbean fer sher, and that decor and, especially the food took us right to the edge of the sea. He offered a five course meal that caressed the palette and awakened the soul; there were light and soft and citrus notes, followed by a robust punch of smoke and spice when you needed it.
As a chef he believes he is “responsible for taking each and every guest on a culinary journey.” There is no doubt he did that at the Flavors event. Each course was tremendous, but the ones I’d beg and plead for again and again were the seared scallops with a citrus foam (think, light kiss on the lips and a breeze through your hair; and, the Caribbean jerk, smoked octopus with asparagus and pineapple caviar (think, well, you just might get in the mood.)
If he is not taking on parties and events for An Exquisite Experience, he is the Executive Chef for Bar Zepoli in Stamford, not to mention training staff and developing a menu for Gourmet Cafe opening in Queens, NY in July. “I typically start my day at 7:00am [and end] at 11:30pm. The best part of the day is seeing everything come into fruition...when we see our client expression after a memorable evening, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Modest but driven, Chef O’Neil has cooking in his blood. He grew up around his mother’s restaurant, then studied more formally at Monroe’s Culinary Institute. From there he opened Neil’s Cafe, a hot spot that quickly garnered him accolades for blending Caribbean and American cuisine. He was awarded “Best Jerk Chicken” by Westchester Magazine in 2013. He’s even studied under the likes of renowned television Chef Aaron Sanchez, someone known for his flare with spice and deep flavors.
Short and Long Term Goals
If the above juggling is not enough, O’Neil hopes to roll out soon with an EP Experience Food Truck and enter some food competitions. And if that is still not enough, this talented creature of creativity would love to have a farm-to-table restaurant in the Caribbean.
For more information about Kevin and An EP Experience, visit them at www.anepexperience.com or on instagram @anexquisiteexperience
Here is more information about Flavors of Connecticut and the annual Gala for the American Liver Foundation.