Food is an integral part of the guest experience at the Ocean House. That’s why the Thursday before a bustling Memorial Day weekend, finds Executive Chef John Kolesar eagerly gearing up for the summer season. The luxury property, located in Watch Hill, R.I., is abuzz with activity as the culinary team prepares to open three seasonal dining destinations, including a raw bar on the veranda and a Mediterranean-inspired eatery on the beach. “We go from two restaurants to five in a matter of weeks,” says Kolesar. “I’m just a little busy.”
The 49-room Ocean House follows a strict farm-to-table philosophy and sources fresh ingredients directly from local farms and markets. Besides serving up quality dishes in its five restaurants, the resort also offers an extensive array of culinary classes and custom food experiences. All of this food programming gives guests a reason to stay on property and experience the resort year round, says Daniel Hostettler, president and managing director of the hotel. Before the Ocean House was reconstructed and reopened in 2010, it functioned as a summer-only retreat. “We really wanted to create a four-season destination,” he says. “The food experiences and the cooking classes are a reason to come in January when you can’t lay on the beach.”
Hostettler explains that food was always a big part of the resort’s overall plan. “We really built the hotel around the culinary experience,” he says. “This portion of Rhode Island is rich in agricultural heritage. We decided that we wanted to be farm-to-table and really mean that.”
Two miles down the road, Janice McEachen, the resort’s food forager, walks knowingly around Avondale Farm, a 10-acre parcel that is used by the Ocean House to grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs. The property consists of 40 different garden beds as well as an orchard of apple and peach trees. McEachen excitedly points out the addition of beehives, and explains that the Ocean House will soon harvest its own honey from Avondale. The farm, which also has plans to add sheep and chickens, is just another step in the Ocean House’s commitment to local, sustainable sourcing.
“I think that procuring food closer to home is where we need to go,” says McEachen. “People today want to know where their food is coming from. Bringing guests here or taking tours of the farmers market gives them a sense of place.”
In addition to acting as a liaison between the chefs and farmers, McEachen also serves as the director of culinary education at the Ocean House and puts together a variety of cooking classes that offer guests hands-on experiences. The resort hosts a culinary education series that includes sessions on topics such as creating stocks and soups to mastering the art of sauces. Other offerings include monthly Farm and Vine prix-fixe dinners featuring acclaimed local chefs, and a Chef’s Counter dining experience where guests can sit directly in front of the open kitchen at Seasons restaurant and watch as the culinary team prepares a 10-course feast.
Although creating such robust programming and pulling from local sourcing is often challenging, Chef Kolesar believes that the culinary experiences at the Ocean House define the resort as a destination for discerning, food-loving travelers. “Food has become a huge part of why people travel,” he says. “It is something people remember and it is a reason for them to come back.”