Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Patrick Owens, chef/owner at Opal and Langdon’s in Mount Pleasant, can not believe where the time has gone.
Langdon’s is celebrating its 10th anniversary this August and hosting a big dinner to celebrate. The anniversary dinner is Sunday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. It will feature a raw bar and four courses with paired wines and Quentin Baxter will entertain. Tickets are $150.
Langdon’s continues to be the only AAA Four Diamond restaurant in Mount Pleasant, a title the staff cherishes and one the restaurant has held since opening in 2003. The restaurant has also just launched a catering division and has catered several high-profile events already.
For a man who went to school to be an engineer, this is quite the extreme change.
But Owens is happy about the decision that changed his life course and how things have turned out.
Owens grew up in Mount Pleasant where he attended Mount Pleasant Academy, East Cooper School, Moultrie Middle School and graduated from Wando High School in 1994.
And like his father and his brother, he headed off to Clemson University to major in engineering.
But an engineer he was not. He soon changed majors to Business and Marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship.
That set the course for his future, no doubt.
But along the way there were other aspects of his life that put him on the path to becoming a renowned chef.
At the young age of 16 he worked in the kitchen at The Wreck of Richard and Charlene. He sweated his summers away there and loved every minute of it.
His time at Mount Pleasant Seafood afforded him an education in fresh local seafood and butchering. Back then the fish came right off the Thunderstar docked out back.
He held kitchen stints at Skoogies Hotdogs and Acme Cantina as well, honing skills he didn’t know he was honing. And there was also the catering job he took on and off for 10 years with John G. Thornhill.
After graduating from Clemson University, he took a job selling pagers and cellphone 13 hours a week. The rest of the time he was playing in his band “No Wake.”
But being in sales was not his thing, and back to the kitchen he went.
Circa 1886 was his next stop and then Magnolia’s. But the events of 9/11 took place and “everything came to a screeching halt,” he said.
In other words, business slowed way down.
Owens began contemplating doing his own thing. Although he had no formal culinary training, he had enough kitchen experience and business education to take a chance.
As with all things, there were bumps in the road.
Owens was contacted by a woman looking to buy the Old Village Post House. She asked him to run the restaurant. He started working on the project, quit his job in sales and began planning. But she pulled out of the agreement and he was out of work.
Owens decided to do it himself. He put together some investors and bought the place. The contract was signed and again he began work on the project when another restaurant group came in and bought the property out from under him.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
His cousin Miles Martschink, a commercial realtor came across an empty spot. It was just a slab then, but he encouraged Owens to take it and run.
He did and was able to pay his investor back within a year because Langdon’s was a smash hit.
Every review Langdon’s gets mentions that this fine dining restaurant is “tucked away in a strip mall.” But it was the only space he could reasonably afford at the time, he said.
And obviously the location hasn’t done anything to harm the reputation of the establishment. He just renewed the lease there. “We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
And his loyal customers are probably glad. He gets very little tourist traffic, but all new patrons return time and time again.
Patrick Langdon Owens opened Langdon’s when he was just 27.
The concept started out with an Asian influence and evolved to include French, Southern and classical styles of cuisine. He calls it a creative spin on classical.
These days Owens uses local ingredients and high quality products. “I am very particular about my ingredients and inspect and check everything that comes in the door,” he said. He explained that he has a very high level of expectation and only buys the best he can find.
Owens always loved to cook. His mother is a skilled baker and at an early age she let him “get in the kitchen and mess around,” he said. His grandparents were great cooks too. Plus, he owns more than 150 cookbooks and is proud to say he’s self taught. But Owens also acknowledges having worked under some of the best chefs in the area.
Owens, known for his under the radar demeanor, is extremely humble, low key and wholly free of ego. But he is proud to acknowledge that he was asked to do a dinner at the James Beard House in New York City this fall on Nov. 9. Owens is also headlining a major fundraising gala, “A Meal to Remember,” in Atlanta next month for Meals on Wheels - their biggest fundraiser of the year.
Owens got married last December and has tentative plans to open a third restaurant in Mount Pleasant.
He also owns Opal Restaurant and Wine Bar and ODG Catering.
“I’m in the kitchen at both restaurants less than I’d like,” he said, explaining that he is at both places, working the line and running food two to three nights a week.
That’s very much unlike the early days when he worked six nights a week.
But Jeff Brookhart, Chef De Cuisine at Langdon’s, has been with him since “day 12” and Owens knows the restaurant is in good hands.
Ryan Camp, who began at Langdon’s eight years ago promises the same as the Chef De Cuisine at Opal.
“Both are very conscientious,” said Owens.
Owens still loves the business and he enjoys being in the kitchen more so than managing. But the business is growing. He started with just 12 employees and now manages more than 50.
“We all work extremely hard to ensure you have a good experience. No one leaves unhappy if we can help it,” he said. “If you come in once, you’ll usually come back.”