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Chef McKenna’s Old-School Savor

The Packard’s chef goes where the flavor is



 



Chris McKenna, executive chef at Packard’s New American Kitchen, grew up in Edmond, but he spent many of his childhood days at his grandparents’ house in Guthrie. The family had a “huge garden” and several animals, and McKenna remembers it being the place where he was exposed to the idea of fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables. It was also the place where he learned a certain work ethic.
 

“Working with my grandfather on the farm showed me the hard, yet rewarding, work it takes to be self-sufficient,” McKenna says.

In terms of culinary influences, though, McKenna’s mother is foremost. “My family ate a lot of comfort food,” he says, “and because we didn’t have a lot of money, we ate whatever mom bought on sale.” Growing up, his mother made a dish she called “elegant steak.” It was whatever cheap cut of steak she could find, cooked well, sliced and served with caramelized onions, rice, and brown gravy with sherry. McKenna said he always looked forward to “devouring” it.

“She was a great cook, and she taught me how to cook with what we could afford and what we had in the house,” he says. The idea of cooking well with whatever is available shapes McKenna’s cooking even as a professional. Biscuits and gravy – perhaps the ultimate comfort food in Oklahoma – is one of McKenna’s chosen “last meals,” and sampling the dish during brunch at Packard’s will make it clear why it’s still in his cookbook: rich, simple, flavorful, filling and delicious.

“I like the recipes that are in those dusty church cookbooks,” he says. “They are simple ‘old school’ dishes, and if you focus on keeping it simple and letting great ingredients shine, you don’t have to overdo a recipe.”

Dining at Packard’s, 201 NW 10th in OKC, it’s easy to see how his childhood influences affect the menu. Yes, McKenna can do elegant, and does, but he also does rustic, old school comfort food with a chef’s flair. In the restaurant business, he focuses on fresh and local more than he would have growing up – but fresh, local ingredients make great comfort food, too. He’s not locked into a specific locale for inspiration, either: Every region has comforting dishes, so you’ll see crawfish étouffée, curry with rice and vegetables, bangers and mash and many other dishes from all over the world on the restaurant’s menu or feature board.

“I love ethnic food,” McKenna says. “I love learning about new ingredients and eating new dishes. Honestly, I do quite a bit of research in cookbooks, and I owe much of my knowledge to fellow chefs.”

McKenna started cooking professionally at County Line BBQ, where he said he fell in love with the restaurant business. All of his training has come on the job, and since he started, he has never not been cooking in a restaurant kitchen. That means his wife, Hailey, does most of the cooking at home, and McKenna calls her “an excellent cook in her own right.”

As for free time, he doesn’t get much of that, and when he does, it’s Thunder basketball or OU football, but mostly it’s eating at other local restaurants to see what other chefs are doing, or traveling to cities to try their regional cuisine. Last year, that meant New Orleans, and his vacation itinerary is really a report of all the places he and Hailey ate.

“Food is my life,” McKenna says. “The restaurant business, too.”

Doing what he loves means we get to experience a chef whose main goal is to make us feel like we did as kids when our parents put comfort food on our plates: mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, huge burritos, hot sandwiches, a great burger. Keeping it simple, for McKenna, means making sure it’s delicious.

Speaking of simple, the recipe he chose is one he makes at home, especially as the months get warmer. It’s the same recipe he uses at Packard’s, too.


 

► How It's Done

3 cups ketchup
1/2 cup Clamato
2.5 cups V8
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup Cholula
1.5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5 tsp salt
1 large white onion, diced small
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

• Mix all ingredients in a bowl. In large pot, bring water to a boil and add one large pinch of salt and one package Zatarain’s shrimp boil. Add 1-2 pounds of shrimp, remove from heat and stir. Once shrimp are poached, remove to ice bath until chilled. Add to cocktail sauce mixture, garnish with sliced avocado and serve with tortilla chips or saltine crackers.

 

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June 2017

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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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Telephone: 405.232.6500
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Where:
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Where:
OK Hall of Fame Museum
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Telephone: 405.235.4458
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Cost: $170

Where:
The Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: The Orr Family Farm
Telephone: 405.799.3276
Contact Name: Shanain
Website »

More information

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Cost: $75-$160

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: The Purple Loft Art Gallery
Telephone: 405.412.7066
Contact Name: MaryAnn Ceballos

More information

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is bringing "the greatest jam session in history" to OKC! This Tony-winning Broadway musical is based on the true story of the famed recording session when Sam...

Cost: $30-90 (military and child discounts available)

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.524.9312
Contact Name: Cynthia Bedford
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35

Where:
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Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

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Where:
Pollard Theater
120 W Harrison
Guthrie, OK  73044
View map »


Telephone: 405.282.2800
Website »

More information

Politically charged and unapologetically feminist, this shows harnesses the talents of dozens of local women creators, with proceeds benefiting OKC Artists for Justice.

Where:
Current Studio
1218 N Penn
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 673.1218
Website »

More information

Summer is a perfect time to join Cimarron Opera in revisitng the classics via Gilbert & Sullivan's comic masterpiece. It's about duty.

Where:
Nancy O'Brien Center
1801 Stubbeman
Norman, OK  73069
View map »


Telephone: 405.364.8962
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More information

Crank it up on the south side with a high-energy show.

Where:
Diamond Ballroom
8001 S Eastern
OKC, OK  73149
View map »


Telephone: 866.977.6849
Website »

More information

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Where:
Carpenter Square Theater
800 W Main
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View map »


Telephone: 405.232.6500
Website »

More information

A joint exhibition of Western portraiture and iconography from Oklahoma Hall of Fame artists Mike Larsen and Harold T. Holden.

Where:
OK Hall of Fame Museum
1400 N Classen
OKC, OK  73106
View map »


Telephone: 405.235.4458
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic presents an overview of the artist’s career including around sixty of his oil paintings, stained glass and sculpture. The exhibition...

Cost: $10-12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Contact Name: Becky Weintz
Website »

More information

Come find a piece of furniture you love at the 5th annual community-wide garage salebenefiting Concordia Life Care Community. Proceeds are donated to Concordia’s Good Samaritan Fund to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Zion Lutheran Church
7701 W Britton Rd,
OKC, OK  73132
View map »


Sponsor: Concordia Life Care Community
Telephone: 405.219.2927
Contact Name: Paige Haag

More information

Edmond's citywide celebration of Independence Day spans more than a week of events, excitement, food and all kinds of fun.

Where:
Throughout Edmond
Edmond, OK


Telephone: 405.340.2527
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Expand your skills and explore your creativity this summer. Enrollment is open for our four- and eight-week classes designed for artists at any level. Under the guidance of experienced instructors,...

Cost: $75-$160

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Departs Exchange Landing | Saturdays (May  – August) | 11:40 am Experience history as you never have before. Colorful Oklahoma characters will reenact history through the eyes of...

Cost: $6-15

Where:
Exchange Landing
1503 Exchange Avenue
SW, over the bridge from Farmer's Market
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Scratch Art Stained Glass Windows, Saturday, July 1, 1- 4 pm Floral Collages, Saturday, July 8, 1-4 pm Fashionable Footwear, Saturday, July 15, 1-4 pm Watercolor Block Prints, Saturday,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Telephone: 405.236.3100
Contact Name: Becky Weintz
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15 (free for kids 6 and under)

Where:
Exchange Landing
1503 Exchange Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
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Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is bringing "the greatest jam session in history" to OKC! This Tony-winning Broadway musical is based on the true story of the famed recording session when Sam...

Cost: $30-90 (military and child discounts available)

Where:
Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.524.9312
Contact Name: Cynthia Bedford
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The CODED_COUTURE exhibition looks at the intersection of fashion and technology. Couture clothes are manufactured to a customer’s specific requirements. CODED_COUTURE offers a new definition...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
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Dust off those chaps and spurs and saddle up! Enjoy country music, party mix and a cash bar on these weekend cruises. View the evening ferry schedule online for evening departure times, and pay...

Cost: $6-15

Where:
All OK River Cruise Landings
Oklahoma City, OK  73109


Telephone: 405.702.7755
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Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is bringing "the greatest jam session in history" to OKC! This Tony-winning Broadway musical is based on the true story of the famed recording session when Sam...

Cost: $30-90 (military and child discounts available)

Where:
Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.524.9312
Contact Name: Cynthia Bedford
Website »

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Crank it up on the south side with a high-energy show.

Where:
Diamond Ballroom
8001 S Eastern
OKC, OK  73149
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Telephone: 866.977.6849
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It's not quite Hamilton, though it's written by Lin-Manuel Miranda - prepare to get fired up by this upbeat tale of cheerleading competition.

Where:
Pollard Theater
120 W Harrison
Guthrie, OK  73044
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Telephone: 405.282.2800
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A joint exhibition of Western portraiture and iconography from Oklahoma Hall of Fame artists Mike Larsen and Harold T. Holden.

Where:
OK Hall of Fame Museum
1400 N Classen
OKC, OK  73106
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Telephone: 405.235.4458
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Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic presents an overview of the artist’s career including around sixty of his oil paintings, stained glass and sculpture. The exhibition...

Cost: $10-12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
Contact Name: Becky Weintz
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A Tony-winning comedy wraps up the Carpenter Square season as siblings reunite for arguments, complaints and eventually, bonding.

Where:
Carpenter Square Theater
800 W Main
OKC, OK  73106
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Telephone: 405.232.6500
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Politically charged and unapologetically feminist, this shows harnesses the talents of dozens of local women creators, with proceeds benefiting OKC Artists for Justice.

Where:
Current Studio
1218 N Penn
OKC, OK  73107
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Telephone: 673.1218
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Summer is a perfect time to join Cimarron Opera in revisitng the classics via Gilbert & Sullivan's comic masterpiece. It's about duty.

Where:
Nancy O'Brien Center
1801 Stubbeman
Norman, OK  73069
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Telephone: 405.364.8962
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Edmond's citywide celebration of Independence Day spans more than a week of events, excitement, food and all kinds of fun.

Where:
Throughout Edmond
Edmond, OK


Telephone: 405.340.2527
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A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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