“Food of Love,” Chef Anne Kearney’s motto, says it all, keeping the
chef and her staff ever mindful of their mission to create culinary
excellence in every dish that is placed before a guest.
For Chef Kearney, the words are close to her heart. Her passion for
culinary perfection and the “sense of place” she feels in the kitchen,
will always be the cornerstones of her dedication to her chosen career.
After graduating from Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio, Kearney
followed her dream, entering the Greater Cincinnati Culinary Art
Academy. After finishing her studies in 1988, Anne worked in Cincinnati
for Jim Tarbell at Grammer’s. Kearney then went on to New Orleans to work under the late chef John Neal at the acclaimed Bistro at the Maison de Ville Hotel.
When Chef Neal left to open Peristyle in late 1991, he took Kearney
along as his Sous Chef. Kearney credits Neal for her tutelage in
classic French cooking techniques, but also for perfecting her own
palate and prompting her discovery of new tastes and the depths of
“His passion for his work was so real, it was almost tangible,” says Kearney. “I
will always hold with me the image of John hovering over a tiny pot
that held what would become a perfect pink pea risotto. He would stir
and taste, stir and taste, until it was absolutely perfect.”
In 1992, Kearney took leave of Peristyle for a three-year tenure with superstar chef Emeril Lagasse. Kearney spent most of the first two years sweating it out on the Emeril’s
restaurant cook line, working at the frenetic pace only an institution
of that caliber could command. Then she moved behind the scenes to
advance her restaurant knowledge, researching and formulating recipes
for Lagasse’s television program Essence of Emeril, in addition
to developing and testing recipes for his cookbook “Louisiana: Real and
Rustic.” However, her passion for hands-on food preparation remained,
and she sought an opportunity to return to work in the kitchen.
“My favorite station was the food bar,” Kearney recalls. “There
I understood who I was cooking for. I stood directly in front of the
guests while preparing their meals. It really put me in touch with
guest orientation and that aspect of the business.”
Kearney is also mindful of the “front of the house” lessons she gleaned from Lagasse: “Chef
Emeril is a consummate businessman who not only offered me challenging
opportunities as a cook, but also introduced me to a whole new
perspective of the restaurant industry beyond cooking.”
Kearney purchased Peristyle shortly after the April 1995
death of John Neal. Though she made the menu her own immediately upon
taking over the helm, she remains ever mindful of incorporating Chef
Neal’s legacies whenever possible: from cuisine (“Respect for the food and proper preparation from start to finish was expected. Nothing marginal was accepted.”) to the dining experience itself (“We
seated 62 people by design. It was our intent to create an intimate
dining experience. This is important to the staff and even more
important to our guests. I was able to experiment with recipes, work
with the cooks on the line, and visit the guests.”).
Kearney is one of five chefs honored in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002
with a James Beard Foundation “Southeast Regional Best Chef” nomination.
Chef Kearney was awarded the title of “Best Chef Southeast” in 2002.
In 1998, Kearney married Thomas Sand, Jr. He became not only her life partner, but her business partner as well. Together they share a vision for the future that guides them through the day-to-day decisions they make. “We enjoy what we are doing,” Kearney remarks. “As a child, my father encouraged me to follow my heart when it came to choosing a career. It was wise counsel.”
Kearney discovered her interest in food through her family while
growing up in Dayton. Kearney’s mother always had a garden and cooked
what it provided. Her grandfather owned a lodge and would entertain a
different cabin each night with one of his special meals—while Anne
watched, helped where she could, and absorbed it all.
In 2004, with Anne’s father suffering from Alzheimer’s, the couple
returned to Dayton to be near both of their families. Moving “down the
food chain” a bit, they established Two Small Tomatoes, an
all-natural garden on the Kearney family farm. Here they explored the
whole cycle of “seed to harvest.” Beginning with tomatoes, the plan was
to provide the freshest produce available for their next restaurant.
The new restaurant she and Tom envisioned was born as Rue Dumaine in 2007. Located in the South Dayton suburb of Washington Township, Rue Dumaine
offers an unforgettable experience in casual fine dining. The ambiance
includes subtle southern accents brought up from New Orleans, such as
wrought iron railings and ceiling fans over the patio. They have
developed a local following and instituted special events for their most
loyal diners. Years of studies, cooking on the line, assisting stellar
chefs, and Anne’s private trials, have matured Chef Anne’s cuisine into
an Americanized version of classically-styled French Provençal fare.
Ultimately, however, wherever she is cooking, the cuisine reflects her
motto: “Food of Love.”