Former Rue Dumaine chef-owner Anne Kearney, a Dayton native who became the most awarded chef in this region’s history, is now back at work in a restaurant kitchen. Unfortunately for her fans in the Miami Valley, that new restaurant is roughly 1,000 miles away.
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Kearney told Dayton-area followers by email late yesterday afternoon that it was opening day for Oak & Ola in Tampa, Florida. Kearney serves as executive chef of the new restaurant, which was founded by a group of veteran restaurateurs that includes Trudy Cooper, a co-founder of the Outback Steakhouse chain, and Chris Arreola, a former executive in both the Bonefish Grill and Outback Steakhouse chains.
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“I am pretty excited to see this ship set sail,” Kearney wrote Monday. “My partners and I have been working on this project for over 18 months, each of us contributing from our reserve of professional expertise. (I) am super grateful to have landed back in the south and am looking forward to seeing what more I can make happen for myself and any cook that comes my way.”
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Oak & Ola is open seven nights a week for dinner.
Kearney earned multiple James Beard Foundation chef awards during her time at the former Rue Dumaine at 1061 Miamisburg-Centerville Road in Washington Twp. The restaurant shut down permanently in July 2017 after a decade-long run. The restaurant changed its name to Bar Dumaine a few months before closing for good.
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Kearney’s career first started to bloom in New Orleans from 1991 through 2004. She co-founded Peristyle restaurant in New Orleans, and in 2002, Kearney was named a James Beard Foundation best-chef award winner in the southeastern U.S. for her work at Peristyle.
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It would not be her last recognition from the Beard Foundation, whose awards are regarded as the nation’s most prestigious recognition program for the food and beverage business — the equivalent of the Academy Awards of the restaurant industry.
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Kearney moved back to the Dayton area in 2004, and in 2007, she co-founded Rue Dumaine. The following year, the Beard Foundation recognized Rue Dumaine, naming it a semifinalist for the foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” in the nation.
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Then, for six consecutive years from 2011 through 2016, the Beard Foundation named Kearney a semifinalist for its “Best Chefs in America” competition for the Great Lakes region. Kearney was the only chef from the Dayton area, and one of only three in Ohio, to be named to that list in 2016.
And she remains the only Dayton-area restaurant chef to make that list in the Beard Foundation’s history.