For a chef, there is no substitute for being on the line. After closing Brookville restaurant in 2016, Harrison Keevil tried to scratch the itch at Keevil & Keevil Grocery & Kitchen by creating cheffy sandwiches, preparing restaurant-quality to-go meals, and planning occasional special events to let loose. But, the itch has not gone away for the French Culinary Institute graduate who has cooked in such kitchens as The Clifton Inn and The Fat Duck.
And so, Keevil is now Executive Chef of Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar. “I started to get the urge to be back in a restaurant kitchen a few months ago,” says Keevil, who sent out feelers to see what may be available. Ten Course Hospitality’s Wilson Richey received one of the feelers, and leaped at the opportunity. Richey had retained Keevil as a consultant last year after Richey’s Ten Course Hospitality took over management of Commonwealth. Keevil helped to create Commonwealth’s new menu and concept of Modern Virginian Cuisine, and now Richey thought Keevil could take those improvements even further.
“We had been getting moments of Harrison and a glimpse of his possible influence, but that was all,” says Richey. As Executive Chef now, Keevil’s role is “to hone in on the direction we have been working towards since Ten Course took over,” says Richey. “We hope to see the new Modern Virginian Cuisine that we have been doing taken to a whole new level.”
A devout locavore, Keevil says his immediate focus since taking over earlier this month has been sourcing. “The biggest impact that I hope to bring right away is local sourcing,” says Keevil, who already has started bringing in meat from Timbercreek Farm. “We hope to run a whole-animal butchery restaurant where nothing is wasted and everything is delicious.”
Commonwealth’s existing chefs, Reggie Calhoun and Tres Pittard, are staying on, which is part of what made the job so appealing to Keevil. “It is an amazing opportunity for me to collaborate with so many great people, whether it’s Reggie and Tres in the kitchen, or Will, Will and Chris in the Dining Room. We hope to make Commonwealth a destination restaurant.” As a chef, Keevil has always made a point of using the best produce of each season, and next month he will introduce Commonwealth’s new Spring menu. “We are testing the menu this week,” says Keevil. “And, I am excited for all of the vegetables and fruits that come with Spring, like asparagus, peas, strawberry, and rhubarb.” A sneak peek? House Made Ricotta on Toast with Pea, Mint and Georgia Olive Oil.
Meanwhile, Keevil & Keevil loyalists fear not. Even with his new job, Keevil is still there every morning to make sandwiches and fill the cases with take-home meals for dinner. Then, his wife Jennifer takes over for the afternoon while also baking the shop’s cookies, muffins, pies, borek, and more.