Chef William McNeill
Executive Chef at the George Washington Hotel
Chef William McNeill’s goal is to make the George Washington Hotel a Gathering Spot for Winchester
“My food style incorporates my southern upbringing with a French influence.”
Born on a farm in Georgia, Chef Will McNeill is unusual with his training both as a Chef and also as a Food and Beverage Director. He can bring to the table an understanding of issues George’s Food and Spirits faces both from the front and back of the house.
Guilty pleasure snack: Cheese and Crackers
Favorite meal at home: BBQ smoking meat all day and eating it in the evening
My most essential item in the kitchen: Knife
My new favorite tool: Immersion Circulator – Sos Vide
The one condiment I can’t live without: A good hot sauce
An Interview with Chef William McNeill of George’s Food & Spirits
Why the Shenandoah Valley as home?
When I left the Biltmore and came up here to Chevy Chase, Maryland, I quickly found after several years that the big metropolitan grandeur had worn off. The traffic was terrible and I really missed the time with my son. These foothills of the Appalachian mountains remind me a lot of southern Georgia my home. The farms – vineyards just felt like home to me.
What led you to become a chef?
I grew up in the agriculture industry. My dad and uncle are still farming. At first, I thought I would go into Landscaping attending Auburn University. But I found I was out of my league. My passion for people and service found me at Johnson and Wales studying hospitality.
Working in the kitchen with family
Between my grandmother’s food which always has a common southern thread and my mother-in-law who is Sicilia’s and follows the indigenous food of her region, I realize your upbringing has everything to do with how you cook. I am still trying to achieve her Marinara Sauce that has years of family cooking history behind it.
What was your favorite dish as a child?
That is simple – biscuits my grandmother makes
What is your training or have you learned from experience alone?
At Johnson and Wales I was in the hospitality school and not the culinary so when I began my career, I was fortunate to apprentice with great chefs. My first job was with TA Shane Pierson from WD-50 a Michelin restaurant on the Lower East Side. I have worked in every area including as a butcher and as a bartender. My internship at the Biltmore Estate turned into a five-year career as a dining and banquet room manager. The food world was changing with the new generation of chefs. Angry yelling chefs were in the past. The food has to be mirrored by excellent service. Both the back and the front were now sitting down together and creating the food experience they wanted their guests to have. I finally realized though that my passion was the food itself and so I made the decision in 2019 to move back to the kitchen where I could truly be creative. This position at the Geroge Washington Hotel is allowing me to follow my true life passion – cooking!
Is there anyone who specifically inspired you to become a chef?
Chef Wylie Dufresne – I worked with Wylie in New York at his owner wd~50 and Alder restaurants in Manhattan. He is now the chef and owner of Du’s Donuts in Brooklyn. He has both a love of food and thirst for knowledge that inspires me. Dufresne is a leading American proponent of molecular gastronomy, the movement to incorporate science and new techniques in the preparation and presentation of food. We are still great friends and see each other outside of work.
What food styles have you brought into the kitchen based on your experiences?
It is my upbringing in the South but from my work with other chefs, I have gained a french influence. Southern Georgia and North Alabama – the slow low country method of cooking. It is a wonderful smell. I love pork – ribs, bacon, and a pork roast. The french influence simply refines the cuisine.
What is the type of staff you are looking for?
Anyone can be taught but I need someone who enjoys their craft and wants to be the best they can be. With this passion comes reliable and dependable. Because the guest experience today is number one, both front and back of the house have to share the responsibility of creating this experience.
“I love my conversation with Will. He claims that Georgia grows the BEST TOMATO in the US. In Will’s words, it is all in the clay soil! I am going to hold him to bringing me one of those tomatoes!” – Nancy Craun, founder of Taste of Blue Ridge