Meridian 98 is nestled inside the Sonesta Hotel Bee Cave, a great place for a “stay-cation” when you are looking to get pampered while not having to hire someone to let your dogs out.
Whether you choose to spend a night dining at the hotel’s restaurant or go all out and stay a night in the posh rooms, you are likely to come in contact with the southern-inspired cuisine of Chef Patrick Newman.
We caught up with Chef Newman to ask him a few questions about what brought him to Bee Cave and how he goes about creating the delicious dishes he is known for.
LTL: You have worked in both large big-name hotels and small boutique getaways … which setting do you feel most at home and why?
Chef Newman: I have had experiences in both types of hotels and I definitely feel more at home in a hotel like Sonesta Bee Cave Austin.
Sonesta Bee Cave Austin is the best of both worlds; it possesses the big Sonesta name but truly captures the boutique feel and is tailored to the Bee Cave area. At Sonesta, the staff, including the chef, has the ability to give guests a more personalized experience and easily cater to his/her needs.
Whether you are a business man who likes his quick and easy breakfast or the group of ladies staying with us for a weekend of shopping at the Hill Country Galleria, no one gets lost in the day to day operation. After all, the guests are the primary focus and we want to provide them with more than a place to stay.
LTL: Low-country and Creole cuisine is the foundation of your culinary training. Other than of course your famous Shrimp and Grits, what are your favorite dishes to cook in your own kitchen at home?
Chef Newman: If I am cooking at home, Carolina BBQ and Soul Food are certainly my go to choices. Just like our menu at Meridian 98, my home favorites change with the seasons.
In the fall, when the weather starts to cool and Texas football is in full swing, I like to fire up the smoker and let it do its magic! One of my specialties is Carolina Glazed pulled pork and Cajun coated baby back ribs paired with a nice local Austin microbrew.
Moving into colder months, I like to have a little warmth in my belly so Soul Food is the ticket of the day. One of my favorite meals to prepare is fried deer steak with country gravy, black eyed peas, collard greens, and a side of jalapeño corn bread.
And we can’t forget about crawfish season! During this time of year I will have a boil almost every weekend, loaded with sides of potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and venison sausage.
You will find I have really integrated my favorite home dishes into the menu at Meridian 98. Come see us at Sonesta for every seasonal menu — I’ll serve up the ribs while you cheer on your favorite team, whether it’s the Longhorns, Aggies or the Lake Travis Cavaliers, warm your soul in the winter months and kick off your crawfish season.
LTL: Growing up in Louisiana you must have been exposed to some great traditions. What is one of your fondest childhood food-centric memory?
Chef Newman: I grew up among the tall pine trees of North Central Louisiana. The cuisine there hasn’t changed much in the past 150 years and it is where I learned how to create true from-the-heart Soul Food.
I can still smell and taste the flavors of both of my Great Grandmothers’ houses. When you walked home during holiday festivities, you were immediately greeted by the sweet aroma of bacon fat simmering in Lima beans loafing through the air and the sound of old men gathered around the smoker bickering about nonsense.
These quaint houses had food spread throughout and around every corner — honey glazed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade biscuits, fresh snapped green beans, lima beans, and smoked turkey.
And the desserts, oh the desserts — pecan pie, banana pudding, cobblers, apple pie and German chocolate cake were all present at every occasion. This probably explains why I insist on a full dessert station at every Sonesta Brunch!
When it comes to Louisiana cuisine, the planning really never stops. Our food didn’t come from the grocery store, it came from the farmer down the road. We would pick purple hull peas by the bushel and sit on the front porch shelling them until our hands were dyed magenta.
I have truly been living the Farm to Fork philosophy my entire life, I just didn’t realize it in my elementary years.
The love my family taught me about food wasn’t the food at all but the love and care that went into harvesting and spending time with family and friends. The fond memories I developed in Louisiana have really translated in my modern-day dishes.
I truly believe Food is Art. I love to use local influences at Meridian 98, encouraging delicious culinary and craft cocktail creations that reflect the best of my Southern roots. Each meal is meant to be appreciated with your eyes before it’s consumed. Most importantly, I want to provide diners with plentiful options and meals that bring our guests together through food.
LTL: There are a lot of young chefs in Austin at the moment, what advice would you give them as they set out to make their culinary footprint on the world?
Chef Newman: Never forget what drove you to become a chef, whether it be growing up in a family that centered around the dining room table, the comradery of a professional kitchen, or the joy of creating great food that your customers enjoy.
Being a chef has a lot of responsibilities that the average foodie has no clue about. These obstacles can grind you and make you question your decision to be a chef, but if you always remember your original inspiration then you will make it just fine. This career isn’t particularly easy, but I must say it is well worth it.
LTL: What is your favorite restaurant in the world and why?
Chef Newman: My favorite meals are typically not served in a restaurant, but at home with loved ones. However, if I had to pick a favorite restaurant aside from my own it would be Counter III-V-VII on Congress. Their menu is based on the freshest ingredients available from renewable resources, which exemplifies my Farm to Fork philosophy.
I also enjoy the connection they create between the chef and diners. Their chef prepares the food and then brings it out himself to serve. I think it’s a unique idea that I wouldn’t mind trying myself!
Sonesta Hotel Bee Cave and its small-plate restaurant, Meridian 98, are located at the Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave.
Photo Credit: Cathy Hale