Chef Harrison Keevil is chef/co-owner of Brookville Restaurant.

ICEBREAKER

You studied foreign affairs at UVA, followed by a Parliamentary stint as a research assistant in London. How did this prepare you for the kitchen?

It really taught me that I didn’t want to be in a 4×4 cubicle. I grew up on a farm so I like the manual labor aspect as well as the human interaction and getting to see smiles on peoples’ faces. That more than anything told me what I didn’t want to do, which led me in this direction.

Once you realized what you didn’t want to do, how did you end up here?

Food was always a big part of my life. My mom would cook us dinner four to five nights a week. My aunt used to work for Gourmet magazine. We used to have huge Thanksgiving dinners. Then when I got to college and had my own apartment, I started cooking for my friends and realized it wasn’t just a passion. It was something I wanted to turn into a career. Having to think I had to follow the status quo of being a banker or something like that, it just took me a little longer to pull the trigger. Everyone needs to take a risk of that magnitude at some point in their life.

What are some of the other things you would like to do other than anything cooking related?

Nothing. I feel like I am really, really lucky. I’ve got my beautiful fiancé Jennifer as my front of house manager, so it’s really turned into the perfect little life. As long as we’re breaking even and I can afford to keep a roof over my head and pay my bills, I’m happy. I could cook for one person a day or as many people as we can fit through our doors, and it will still be a good day.

You’ve implemented a 100 mile rule at Brookville, meaning most of your ingredients must be raised or grown within 100 miles of Charlottesville.

We try to get upwards of 90% of everything we cook from within 100 miles. Then we’ll go to the state of Virginia, then regional. I also bring in our spices and olive oils and canola oils, which don’t come from here. But, the bulk of it we try to source from here.

There are so many chefs out there who haven’t gone to culinary school. As a French Culinary Institute graduate yourself, would you advise aspiring chefs to seek out formal training?

It’s a slippery slope because culinary schools are expensive, but when you get out you don’t have that much income at first so it’s one of those things – if you really, really want to and you think that you need to, do it. I felt I needed to because so many kids start at eighteen in the kitchen, and I didn’t have that. I went to college so I needed the basics. But, if you have been in the kitchen since you were young and know the basics, you might as well keep in the kitchen. You’re going to learn just as much there.

When I came back to the United States after my Parliament job, I had that “what do you want to do with your life” conversation with my parents. I told them I wanted to open a restaurant and they advised me to go to culinary school. When I went to school, my goal was to open up my own restaurant within five years. I went into my profession as a chef trying to get as much knowledge as I could so that I could open up my own place.

How do your stages in London and San Francisco compare to your gig here in Cville?

It’s not as many people coming through the doors but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as we are a small restaurant. I’ve worked in large restaurants and it taught me how to prioritize things, how to know what I needed to make so I’m always ready and never get really far behind. It doesn’t matter if you do two people or 150 people, it is still going to go smoothly.

I can’t help keep noticing this giant British flag hanging behind you. What’s the scoop?

I grew up about an hour east of here in Goochland County, on a horse farm called Applegarth Farm. I would spend my summers in southern England with my cousins and my grandmother. It’s had a huge impact on my life and it was something that I only got a taste of, until I went back and worked at Parliament and really found the British side of me. I am very proud to be both American and British.

Brookville Restaurant turns one in June. Who will be baking the cake?

Probably me since I’m attempting to bake my wedding cake.

Please don’t tell me you are catering it yourself.

We’re catering it through another company but using my own recipes.

Any final pearls of wisdom before we move along?

Jennifer and I have a philosophy that we want everyone who comes out of Brookville to have been given the best service we can give, the best food we can give. If we haven’t done that, please let us know because we’ll do whatever we can to make it better. The diners of Charlottesville deserve the best and they need to know they can demand the best.

*****

QUICKFIRE

Restaurant pet peeve: Tardiness for a reservation, a shift or people just being late in general.

Throwdown with Bobby Flay or battle it out on Iron Chef? Iron Chef.

Food aversions: Eggplant.

Worst thing about his kitchen: It was built by someone else.

Always with him: My 10” Mizuno chef’s knife.

Most-used cookbook: My culinary school cookbooks.

Music in the kitchen: Yes. Everything from hip-hop to country to classic rock. Depends what we’re feeling.

Cooking philosophy: Keep it local, keep it simple.

Always in the fridge: Unsalted butter.

Best thing about job: I get to play with fire and knives everyday.

Recipe inspiration: Outside.

What would you throw together from your pantry if you only had 10 minutes? A sandwich.

Biggest self-indulgence: Sour jelly bellys.

Best hangover remedy: Gatorade and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.

What’s your favorite cheap eat in Cville? Bodos.

*****

LAST SUPPER

What would be your last meal on earth?
Roasted chicken. That’s it.

What would be the setting for the meal?
Where I grew up on Applegarth Farm.

What would you drink with your meal?
Beer. Probably a Racer Five, but I’ve really gotten into the Black Cannon from Heavy Seas up in Maryland. It’s delicious.

Who would be your dining companions?
It’d be any family I have, my then wife Jennifer, friends. Just the people I love.

Who would prepare the meal?
Me. It’d be simple. I’d just stuff it with some herbs, lemon, and garlic and stick it in the oven for an hour and a half.

Would there be music?
Yes. Some nice mellow Dave Matthews.