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Boone Tavern Restaurant Chef mixing older with newer

Berea College
Chef Paul Runnels, the new chef at Berea's Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant, has big plans for the historic restaurant. Photo by Osman Bin Aamir / Berea College

Paul Runnels felt the urge to one day become a professional cook at age 14 in Huntington, West Virginia. Now, decades later, he finds himself at historic Boone Tavern Restaurant as its chef. Runnels said menu changes occur, but always with an awareness of the importance of traditional items. “We take the old and the new and you blend it together and that’s how you come up with a menu that puts the old stuff, you know, the traditional things that people wanted to see and the new things. And you know, sooner or later, some of the new things become tradition too, so it just takes time,” said Runnels.

With that in mind, one of those old items planned for the new menu is Chicken Flakes. That’s creamy chicken found in a bird nest-like potato base. And Runnels said spoonbread is an item diners can always expect to find on the menu.

Runnels says a farm-to-table opportunity is found around Berea. “A lot of things, even in the fall in the winter, they’ll be growing in the tunnels and hot houses. So, we’re kind of blending those new items into the menus to work, so we’re not having to worry about outsourcing those things,” explained Runnels.

Runnels noted it helps to lessen challenges associated with the much- publicized supply chain logjam. The Boone Tavern chef added local items, much produce, could comprise half of the menu by next summer.

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