Richard Petrelli, executive chef of the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, began his culinary career at a small Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh where he worked full-time while attending Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts. After graduation, he spent the next few years traveling around and getting industry experience in places as diverse as Hawaii and Indiana before settling in Asheville. Petrelli was hired by the Renaissance as an executive sous chef nearly a year ago and was promoted to executive chef after five months.
Petrelli recently launched a new fall and winter menu at the hotel’s Writer’s Bistro as well as for its bar, catering and banquets. The dishes, which will be featured through mid-March, “have a strong focus on local fare and seasonality,” says Petrelli.
Breakfast items will include pumpkin mascarpone-stuffed French toast with pecan crust, local apple and oatmeal buttermilk pancakes topped with bourbon maple syrup and fried apples and a croissant sandwich with baby spinach, chorizo and ranchero sauce. For lunch, an autumn barbecue burger with molasses-candied bacon, smoked gouda, barbecue and kale slaw is joined by a meatless portabella burger with fresh mozzarella, fried leeks, arugula and white truffle oil. On the dinner menu, there’s a maple-seared duck breast with house-made confit, chimichurri-roasted filet with bleu cheese au gratin and house-made pappardelle with bacon and leek cream.
Xpress sat down with Petrelli recently to ask him a few questions about cooking, eating and even urban beekeeping.
Mountain Xpress: Why is the dining room called the Writer’s Bistro?
Richard Petrelli: The Renaissance Hotel is located right next to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, and his work was the inspiration for the name.
Do you serve food at the lobby bar?
Yes. This is a great option for business people who don’t wish to dine alone or for others who just want a little something and a drink without sitting down at a table. The bar menu features some really delicious burgers such as an 8-ounce short rib burger as well as a fried chicken sandwich that uses chicken thighs and is topped with a bacon-Brussels sprouts slaw.
How many people work front of house/back of house?
In the front of house we have 19; 17 in the back of the house. We have another dozen or so in service staff for banquets.
Your menu has a section called “Greens and Handhelds?” What exactly are handhelds?
We have several different sandwich and burger options available, and we group them all together with the “handhelds” category.
What are your three must-have ingredients?
In no specific order, I’d have to say onions, eggs and fresh herbs.
What would be your last meal request?
A whole roasted chicken, some really buttery, cheesy mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts with bacon and onions.
Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?
My chef knife. Our Robot Coupe [commercial food processor] would be a close second. It was out of commission for awhile, and I had no idea how much I loved that thing.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Asheville is not only known as Beer City, but we’re also working to be Bee City. We have two beehives on our roof. Our queen just died, and we are re-introducing another one. We hope to have honey within the next year and plan to incorporate that honey into some menu items.