Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

A Very Gary Busey Gala

deadCenter Film Festival presents an Oklahoma Icon Award to native son Gary Busey in a lavish event that introduces OKC to new restaurant and concert venue The Jones Assembly.

OKC Phil Names New Music Director

Alexander Mickelthwate will succeed Joel Levine as OKC Philharmonic music director    

What's Up This Weekend in the 405

Our top 6 picks for fun stuff to do in and around OKC

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Friends to Follow

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2017

The inaugural Oklahoma City Whitewater Festival will host many whitewater rafting and kayaking events. This four-day whitewater celebration will include the R4 Rafting National Championship and USA...

Cost: Free

Where:
Riversport Rapids
800 Riversport Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Boathouse Foundation
Website »

More information

Six homes and gardens -- from grand domiciles to cozy bungalows -- are ready to welcome the public. The 2017 tour will showcase the diverse architecture, array of interior décor and...

Cost: $10

Where:
Miller Neighborhood
2649 NW 14th St
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association OKC
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

Show More...
Show Less...

Internationally known multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson’s first Oklahoma solo exhibition will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and...

Cost: Free

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

Multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson interweaves fiber art, ceramics, video and performance art, painting and elements and influences from his Choctaw/Cherokee heritage for this captivating exhibition...

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 405.951.0000
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Internationally known multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson’s first Oklahoma solo exhibition will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and...

Cost: Free

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

Multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson interweaves fiber art, ceramics, video and performance art, painting and elements and influences from his Choctaw/Cherokee heritage for this captivating exhibition...

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 405.951.0000
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

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

Show More...
Show Less...

Internationally known multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson’s first Oklahoma solo exhibition will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and...

Cost: Free

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

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

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

Multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson interweaves fiber art, ceramics, video and performance art, painting and elements and influences from his Choctaw/Cherokee heritage for this captivating exhibition...

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 405.951.0000
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Internationally known multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson’s first Oklahoma solo exhibition will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and...

Cost: Free

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

Multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson interweaves fiber art, ceramics, video and performance art, painting and elements and influences from his Choctaw/Cherokee heritage for this captivating exhibition...

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 405.951.0000
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

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

Show More...
Show Less...

Internationally known multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson’s first Oklahoma solo exhibition will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and...

Cost: Free

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

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

Multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson interweaves fiber art, ceramics, video and performance art, painting and elements and influences from his Choctaw/Cherokee heritage for this captivating exhibition...

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 405.951.0000
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

Show More...
Show Less...

Internationally known multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson’s first Oklahoma solo exhibition will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and...

Cost: Free

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

Celebrate the last day of the Farm's spring season and Memorial Day!

Cost: $11.50

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

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

Saturday cartoons aren’t just for the children anymore. Share the classics with your crew every Saturday on an Oklahoma River Cruise. Kids 6 and under ride free.

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

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


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson interweaves fiber art, ceramics, video and performance art, painting and elements and influences from his Choctaw/Cherokee heritage for this captivating exhibition...

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
OKC, OK  73107
View map »


Telephone: 405.951.0000
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

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags