Patrick Owens cooked up a career at 8; now on way to James Beard House
At age 8, Patrick Owens gathered some flour, butter, sugar and other ingredients from his mother’s cupboards and created a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
At a glance
COMPANY: Owens Dining Group
OWNER: Patrick Langdon Owens
RESIDENCE: Mount Pleasant
FAMILY: Wife, Meredith
EDUCATION: Clemson University, 1999, majored in marketing with minor in entrepreneurship
MENU FOR JAMES BEARD HOUSE Nov. 9: http://www.james beard.org/events/contemporary- charleston
He didn’t know it at the time, but he had just whipped up a culinary career.
His mom later allowed him to prepare all the pasta so it wouldn’t stick together. Apparently, she had a tendency to cook it a bit too long. Then, he started baking breads and creating other dishes.
At 14, he began working in restaurants, and there was some talk of him attending Johnson & Wales University, before the culinary school moved its Charleston campus to Charlotte. But Owens’ thinking at the time was on another career path.
The Mount Pleasant native graduated from Wando High School in 1994 with the intent of studying engineering at Clemson University.
“I took a couple of classes and hated it,” he said.
That’s when he switched to marketing as his major with a minor in entrepreneurship.
Owens attended classes, worked at a Clemson area restaurant Monday through Thursday and played in a band called No Wake on the weekends.
After graduation, he started his first job in the marketing and sales of cellphones, work for which he held little fondness.
He went to work at Charleston restaurants, including Circa 1886 and Magnolias, while continuing to stay with the band. At one point, he worked three days as a private chef for a wealthy Aiken family, but decided quickly that wasn’t for him either.
“I wanted to get as much experience as I could, but I really wanted my own restaurant one day,” he said.
When he turned 27, an opportunity opened up.
The former 101 Pitt restaurant in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant was on the market.
Owens hoped to lease it and planned to clean it up, but it was suddenly sold and became the Old Village Post House. He turned his sights elsewhere and found an undeveloped concrete slab near the then-new Bi-Lo-anchored shopping center on Shelmore Boulevard in Mount Pleasant. “It was a blessing in disguise,” Owens said.
He opened his first restaurant, Langdon’s, titled after his middle name, on Aug. 19, 2003.
The fine-dining restaurant seats 90 and is the only restaurant in Mount Pleasant with a AAA Four-Diamond rating. It offers seafood, steaks and other entrees with soups, salads and a wide selection of appetizers.
Owens’ favorite item is the Hawaiian tuna, which is shipped in fresh every other day, but he said customer favorites include fish or steak dishes.
“I opened this place at the right time,” he said. “Real estate was booming, and it’s coming back now. After about two-and-a-half to three years, I knew what to expect.”
Most of his customers, including Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, are locals, but occasionally tourists stop by as well.
Eight years after setting up his first restaurant, Owens launched a second venture called Opal in Seaside Farms shopping center in Mount Pleasant. The 99-seat, more casual dining establishment offers Californian and Mediterranean fare. It’s named after mixing up his initials and adding an ‘a’. It opened June 26, 2011.
“It’s doing great,” Owens said. “It’s coming into its own.”
One of his biggest challenges was hiring the staff at Opal.
“I don’t know if it was because of so many more restaurants that have opened that have diluted F&B (food and beverage) people,” he said. “I eventually got a good staff there, though.”
In July, he started a new service, offering catering out of the Opal location.
“We are fully set up to do from 15 people to 200 people,” said Owens, who worked in catering as a teenager. “And because both restaurants are closed on Sunday, we can handle weddings.”
With some longtime staff members at the helm of both restaurants — Langdon’s chef de cuisine Jeff Brookhart and manager Matt Davis have been with him 10 years while Opal chef de cuisine Ryan Camp has eight years with Owens Dining Group — Owens said the established ventures have given him time to travel and try different dishes in other places.
Last year, he finally tied the knot.
On Saturday, he’ll travel to New York City to prepare dinner at the James Beard House, joining an elite list of other guest chefs from Charleston to cook there.
“It’s definitely something that every chef would love to do in his career,” he said.
He will serve four appetizers and a five-course meal at $130 a plate for members and $170 for nonmembers to support the James Beard Foundation.
As for the future, Owens hopes to open a third restaurant somewhere in the Charleston area. “It could be two months or two years,” he said. “I just have to find out where.”
The location will be totally opposite of his existing two restaurants.
“Both of these restaurants are in fairly secluded areas,” Owens said. “The next restaurant will be the polar opposite. It will be in a high-profile area.”
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.