Forty years ago, fine dining on Cape Cod was limited to a handful of restaurants. Chef Bill Atwood and his lovely wife Denise fell in love with the farmhouse where they would serve fine cuisine that would bring diners back year after year to celebrate the important times in their lives. They lived above the restaurant, raising their kids, and now it’s time to travel to visit their kids and their (soon to arrive) second grandchild. We asked Bill and Denise how the restaurant scene has changed on Cape Cod in the last 40 years?
A – Bill and Denise: Dining styles have changed. From the beginning we looked for local seafood and produce; now it’s commonplace. People have much higher expectations. There’s lots of knowledge out there. 100 seat restaurants were the norm 40 years ago; now 50 seats are the norm. There are many more restaurants with really good food. And you see young chefs trying to do too much with their plates. After a while you realize that 2 or 3 really good ingredients with a protein is perfect.
Q – You were one of the first restaurants to grow herbs & vegetables in your garden to use in the restaurant. Is gardening in your future?
A – Bill – You know Denise is the Master Gardner and she always managed to grow lots of the vegetables and herbs that I wanted to use in my recipes. Denise: Don’t forget the flowers that graced our tables. I’ll always be a gardner. Right now I’m working with the Children’s Garden in Brewster where we’re teaching kids where their food comes from and how to cook with it.
Q – What will you miss most about the Red Pheasant?
A – Denise: I’ll miss the people. We have customers that have been coming to dinner for years and years. They are like our family. Bill: I’ll miss the 5PM “Curtain Call”. I often woke up at 5 AM thinking about what I had to do that day to make today’s dinner an event to remember. B & D: We will not miss the struggle to get good staff. Years ago you had high school kids who wanted to work to buy their first car. That’s gone now.
Q – What was your favorite dish?
A – Bill: Definitely the striped bass with an orange and lavender buerre blanc. The French techniques always won, although they are much lighter today.
Q – What are your plans now that the Red Pheasant has sold?
A – Our kids are now scattered throughout the country. We plan to travel to visit them and to enjoy our grandchildren. We have left the Red Pheasant in good hands; the new owners, a young couple, Adam Geringer-Dunn and Erica Dunn, share the same ideals that we worked hard to achieve. The “Pheasant” will go on.