It’s impossible to ponder Westchester’s fine dining scene without the name Peter X. Kelly — and that warm, smiling face of his — immediately coming to mind. The recipient of some of the most coveted awards in the restaurant biz, multiple TV appearances, and endless best-of type accolades (including several from Westchester Magazine, natch), Kelly is a culinary force in the Hudson Valley and beyond, yet he received no formal training in the kitchen.
Growing up in Yonkers and Croton with 11 brothers and sisters, Kelly began working in restaurants as a young teen before opening his own place — the former Xaviars of Garrison — at the ripe old age of 23. Other establishments soon followed, but his crowning achievement is surely the indomitable X2O Xaviars on Hudson which rises prominently from the only turn-of-the-century pier still in use on the river. Here, gleaming walls of glass ease the lines between inside and out, ushering majestic Palisades sunsets and liquid vistas to this contemporary, sophisticated space where French, Italian, Spanish, and Asian influences mingle seamlessly across every course.
Kelly says his mission at X2O is to “introduce guests to food they don’t always bump into, and also familiar items done in a different way.” The farm-raised pure Ossabaw pork chop with peach or pear mostarda and creamy polenta is a standout staple of the menu; and with a full sushi bar on premises (in the vibrant, upbeat Dylan Bar and Lounge), “You can have a taste and then still have your cowboy ribeye,” which weighs in at 40 ounces, says Kelly, and is seasoned with brown sugar and cayenne.
With our mouths watering, we had to sit down with this self-taught, famed chef (and all-around really nice guy) to see what’s in store for X2O and what we can expect from his chef demo at our Wine & Food Fest currently underway.
WM: What will you be preparing at the demo and why this choice?
Gazpacho Anduluz with spicy shrimp. Gazpacho is my favorite way to incorporate the season’s vegetables and herbs. It’s a simple preparation that people can prepare at home and utilize anything from garden or store that looks great.
WM: What do you hope the takeaway will be for those who experience your demo?
That guests should only use a recipe as a guide, that they should feel good about altering or adjusting to suit their preferences. Cooking is personal and should showcase your preferences.
WM: Back in Yonkers at the restaurant, what can we expect for the fall?
We are currently working on our fall menu which will highlight game, including venison, squab, quail, and some long-braised items like our Blanquette de Veau. An array of fall root vegetables grown here in the Hudson Valley will also be on offer.
WM: Those family meal deals and specials you offered during the height of the pandemic’s restrictions on dining… are they still an option?
We always do a Thursday night special menu at the restaurant where guests can order a three-course menu for $35. And, of course, our full menu is always available for takeout.