Kevin Gillespie, executive chef of Atwater’s at the Herrington Inn & Spa, in Geneva, fuses classic French cooking techniques with contemporary American cuisine.

New Executive Chef Keeps Diners Happy at Atwater’s

Meet Kevin Gillespie, the new executive chef of Atwater’s at The Herrington Inn & Spa. Everything he makes is from scratch.

Kevin Gillespie, executive chef of Atwater’s at the Herrington Inn & Spa, in Geneva, fuses classic French cooking techniques with contemporary American cuisine.

Kevin Gillespie stepped up to the plate last November when he became executive chef of Atwater’s at The Herrington Inn & Spa, 15 S. River Lane in Geneva.

For the 22-year veteran in the restaurant business, the move represented something of a homecoming. A decade ago, Gillespie worked as a banquet chef at The Herrington, a historical Geneva landmark that has hosted countless weddings and private parties.

“We serve contemporary American cuisine made with classic French techniques such as sauteing, braising and poaching,” says Gillespie, who overseers a staff of 15. “We work off the five classic mother sauces to stay true to the traditional methods, while incorporating seasonally fresh ingredients, wild-caught fish and grass-fed, dry-aged beef.”

The chef’s duties go beyond keeping tabs on Atwater’s intimate 46-seat dining room, with its vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows. Gillespie also maintains oversight on service at the 200-seat banquet room at The Herrington Inn; provides turn-down service with cookies each night and handles room service packages.

Gillespie, who says he has always had an interest in cooking, honed his skills at the College of DuPage Culinary Arts School.

“We tend to follow a market-to-table focus, especially when the season allows,” says Gillespie. “Come spring, we’ll bring in products sourced from area farmers.” The chef favors organic ingredients and grass-fed beef.

Two popular appetizers on the Atwater’s menu include crab cakes with an avocado emulsion and pineapple relish and a charcuterie board featuring Prosciutto di Parma, Finocchiona Italian Salami and Toscana Italian Salami. Among main courses, Angus filet mignon ranks high. Other dishes feature sauteed Rainbow trout; rack of lamb and smoked pork tenderloin.

Dessert options change regularly. Recent favorites included chocolate ganache cake, creme brulee and a semifreddo with butterscotch sauce.

“Everything we do is from scratch,” Gillespie says, adding that Atwater’s has become a destination restaurant, drawing diners whose demographic is hard to pinpoint. “There’s a mix of customers, from those staying at The Herrington to food-lovers from surrounding suburbs.”

Meanwhile, the Atwater’s full-service bar dispenses craft beer and specialty cocktails (Rusty Badger, The Madhatten and Espresso Martini).

Its ever-changing wine cellar is deep with both domestic vintages and imports. Many are available by the glass.

Gillespie says the staff constantly tests the pulse of its customers to gauge their interest in dishes on the menu.

“Our service staff does a good job explaining to customers what they’re eating, where it’s from and how it’s prepared,” he says.

Gillespie constantly seeks ways to keep an edge in the face of changes in technology and customer expectations. “For example, we do foams to heighten the impact of our sauces, though we also use various flavored beurre blanc sauces,” he says.

Atwater’s is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast and lunch hours are Sun.-Thu. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fri.- Sat. to 3 p.m. Dinner hours are Sun.-Thu. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Fri.-Sat. to 10 p.m.