Describe the atmosphere at Ella’s Fine Food & Drink.
The restaurant is cool and relaxing. The emphasis was on minimalism and comfort.... the feature is the food.
You are quite the accomplished chef with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and a five-time James Beard Award nominee. When did you discover your passion for this industry?
As far back as I can remember, I loved everything about cooking. Growing up, my grandmother and mother were fantastic cooks; we would travel around Waterbury, Connecticut going to many different stores and bakeries for specific items. Also, my grandmother grew everything you could think of, potatoes to boysenberries, which she used to make everything from scratch. It was amazing.
Your husband James has also had extensive experience in the business. How did you two meet?
We met while on externship from CIA working at a private dining club in Newport Beach, California.
What inspired you and your husband to open up a restaurant in Rhode Island after running one in Florida for the past decade?
I spent my summers in Charlestown. Since I was three, James and I have had an innate love for Rhode Island and have been working on moving to the area for years. Also my father just turned 84 and we wanted to be near him in his later years and, frankly, this is one of the best-kept secrets in the United States.
Tell us a little about your cooking style and how it inspired Ella’s menu.
I’ve always cooked what I like to eat. My style has changed and evolved as I change and evolve as a chef, the seasons influence me more in New England. Our palates constantly change and evolve and that enabled me to change and discover myself as I grow.
What is your favorite dish?
Duck a deux facons. I’m a poultry fanatic and I eat this almost every Saturday, whether I need to or not.
We heard you once cooked for Regis Philbin, what was that like?
Regis dined with us this summer and was a pure delight. I always cook the same way no matter who’s in the seat.
What can we expect from Ella’s Fine Food & Drink in the future?
It’s been eight months into our new venture and it has exceeded our expectations. We will continue to morph, striving to be the one of the top restaurants in New England.
Chef Jeanie and James Roland own Ella’s Fine Food and Drink, 2 Tower Street, Westerly. 315-0606