Trained at The Inn at Little Washington, Executive Chef James Kirby brings farm to table cuisine to hotel
RADFORD – The Highlander Hotel Radford, opening in spring 2023 on Tyler Avenue, has hired fine dining veteran Executive Chef James Kirby for its rooftop restaurant.
The hotel’s new leadership team is made up of a mix of local and incoming executive talent. Rachel Pegues has relocated to the area from Charlotte to serve as the property’s General Manager, local Ginger Clark has been appointed Director of Sales and Marketing after leading several other successful area properties, and Tidewater native John O’Conner will serve as Director of Food and Beverage.
Executive Chef James Kirby is an alumnus of the prestigious Johnson and Wales Culinary Program and the three Michelin-star northern Virginia restaurant, The Inn at Little Washington, where he worked for five years and rose to sous-chef during his tenure.
Kirby has also worked at other notable D.C. restaurants including the Blue Duck Tavern, the Watergate Hotel, and L’Ardente. He spent the better part of the last two decades developing his culinary skills across Virginia and has helped train the next generation of chefs by teaching culinary arts at Stratford University. For several years Kirby also ran an organic farm in the Shenandoah mountains catering to Washington D.C. restaurants. He brings a passion for local and seasonal cuisine to The Highlander Hotel Radford.
“I plan to use seasonal ingredients to highlight the special, regional cuisine we will offer at our new restaurant, Bee & Butter,” Kirby said. “We’re planning to work with local food producers in as many creative ways as possible – bringing an exciting but relaxed, new culinary experience to the area – one that is worthy of this new rooftop facility with its jaw-droppingly beautiful view but appropriate for both everyday dining and special family events.”
Kirby will work closely with new Director of Food and Beverage John O’Conner, who joins the team with extensive experience in fine dining, resorts, and wineries across the state.
O’Conner first developed his passion for the hospitality industry after staying at the Williamsburg Inn during the holiday season as a child. That’s where he first realized he could play a part in giving people lifelong memories.
His career now includes work at impressive establishments such as Colonial Williamsburg Resorts, the Williamsburg Inn, and Shield’s Tavern. O’Conner also served as a manager of the Williamsburg Winery and led operations for the Kabana Rooftop and Lounge as well as Belle & James restaurant in Richmond, Virginia.
“No matter the venue, my passion has always remained the same: to give people a unique experience they will never forget,” O’Conner said. “We’re working with several celebrated local producers to put together an exciting food and beverage program that will include excellent locally produced wines and spirits to complement our menus and atmosphere and, of course, everything is inspired by this region’s Highlander roots.”
Director of Sales and Marketing Ginger Clark will oversee the opening of the new hotel and its meeting and group sales operations. Clark brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience to the new hotel. Prior to joining Aimbridge last August, Clark spent the last seven years leading sales with Hilton properties in the Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Radford markets.
“I love the hospitality industry and have worked with hotels since I was in college,” said Clark. “Everyone is so enthusiastic about this new property, me included, and we couldn’t be more excited to launch with a clear focus on bringing the best of the entire region to each guest who walks through our doors. This team is amazing, and I expect this property will quickly be renowned for its incredible hospitality and impeccable experience design.”
General Manager Rachel Pegues is responsible for overarching hotel operations, including staff management and guest satisfaction. Pegues has worked with the hotel management firm, Aimbridge Hospitality, for more than three years. She started her career on her family farm, moved into restaurant management after college, and has since rapidly excelled in hotel management having served successfully in general manager positions with Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt properties.
“We’re all looking forward to bringing the Highlander Hotel Radford to life as a distinguished new hotel and event space for the region. As someone new to the area, it is especially exciting to get to work closely with so many new friends in the community on creative collaborations,” Pegues said. “Watch this team closely over the coming months, we are going to have a lot of new announcements to make.”
The announcement of staff comes after the hotel’s late 2022 announcement that they are accepting reservations for spring of 2023. Reservations can be made at highlanderradford.com/.
Submitted by the Highlander Hotel
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