New innkeeper brings tasty ideas

Jeff O
Jeff O'Brien, the new innkeeper and chef at the Inn at Langley, will prepare a changing monthly menu for his weekend dinners in the Inn's dining room.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Something smells good on First Street.

The scents of saffron, rosemary and garlic are wafting into Langley courtesy Jeff O'Brien.

O'Brien, who was hired as chef and innkeeper at the Inn at Langley in January, has been cooking up a storm since his arrival.

"I live, breathe, sleep and eat food," said O'Brien. "I love food."

O'Brien's passion for food is visible from his resume. He oversaw the menu creation and culinary programs for Zephyr Cove Resort, Alpine Meadows, Kalaloch Lodge, and the Lake Quinault Lodge. Some of O'Brien's larger venues included the Oregon Convention Center, the Reno Sparks Convention Center and most recently the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.

A manager for Columbia Hospitality Inc., the company that manages the Inn at Langley for owners Paul and Pam Schell, called O'Brien immediately after learning innkeepers Steve and Sandy Nogal were moving to Montana.

"And the rest is history," O'Brien said with a smile.

O'Brien said he and his wife, Cynthia, will move to Langley from Bainbridge Island, where they were both commuting to Seattle daily.

One of the first changes O'Brien made upon arriving at the inn was adding a sixth course to the already generous menu in the inn's dining room. Called the "Amuse Bouche," or appetizer, the course is intended to give dinner guests "a small taste of what's to come," O'Brien said.

On January's menu, the "Amuse Bouche" offered a sampling of free range Muscovy duck wrapped in hazelnut-crusted phyllo dough with shaved black truffle and lebanese pomegranate molasses and duck jus. There's a bouche, rather a mouth, full.

The "Amuse Bouche" will change with every meal, O'Brien said, while the menu will change every month.

"My repertoire is pretty generous," he said, "So I'm really going vastly different."

One thing that won't be taken off the menu are the mussels.

"I want everyone to experience Penn Cove mussels; they're the best," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said after spending 13 years at large venues he is ready to make the transition to the inn, which has 24 rooms and two cottages. The dining room seats 32.

O'Brien said he is more than happy to downsize at the inn. The fast pace of overseeing full-size meals for 5,000 people, breakfast, lunch and dinner, was exhausting.

"I was living on airplanes and I hated it," O'Brien said.

A second person will be hired to work with O'Brien on a management level sometime in the future. Currently O'Brien oversees all administration, staff and subcontractors who maintain the property.

Overnight guests at the inn are not the only people invited to dine. O'Brien encourages island residents to give the food a try.

O'Brien said he made the right decision when he took the position at the Inn at Langley.

"I came for the inn, but I think it's the people that will keep me here."

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