Fresh Ingredients, International Tastes Paul Kennedy brings worldwide flair to Royal Oaks in Sun City

Royal Oaks’ new chef, Paul Kennedy, learned to tolerate the heat while working in Dubai. (Photo courtesy Royal Oaks)

As the Royal Oaks Retirement Community’s new chef, Paul Kennedy is hoping to introduce residents to flavors from around the world.

“We were searching for a culinary director and found Chef Paul,” says Mark Schroeder, Royal Oaks food services director. “You can imagine how excited we were to recruit him to Arizona. Upscale retirement communities like Royal Oaks understand the importance of fresh food and variety for our residents. Chef Paul has already introduced many varieties of cuisine. We can’t wait to see each week what new dishes he has up his sleeve.”

A classical French-trained chef, Kennedy—whose official title is director of innovation and culinary operations—arrived in Sun City in May after stints around the world.

Raised in Stratford Upon Avon, England, Kennedy studied with the best. He worked with Maître De Cuisine Albert Roux, the first chef to hold three Michelin stars outside France, in Amsterdam and Newcastle on Tine.

“There was no better training ground for me as a new chef than to work with Albert Roux,” Kennedy says. “Those eight years provided me the foundation for classic French cuisine. I was also fortunate to work in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for 10 years where, among other things, I was the chef for the Formula 1 Circuit.

“Because of the exposure I received in such a high-profile position, I was a regular on TV shows for cooking demonstrations. I really enjoy showcasing different dishes.”

He also values his time as the American Ryder Cup team’s chef in 2002 at The Belfry Hotel in England, where he rubbed shoulders with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

While employed by Emirates Hospitality Group for 10 years, Kennedy was responsible for operations, planning, design, development, training, and opening of restaurants around the Middle East and Asia.

“I did a lot of work based in Bangkok,” he says. “I trained there, learning about Thai food and Thai culture to help me on my Thai journey.”

When his American wife wanted to move to the United States, Kennedy relocated to Washington, D.C., where he opened the now-shuttered Thai restaurant Mango Tree.

“I decided it was time for me to do my own things, so I worked in catering and had a personal chef business,” Kennedy says. “That lasted for four to five years.”

Finding Royal Oaks was a coup. Kennedy is hoping to share different cuisines and flavors in Royal Oaks’ five kitchens, including the fine dining experience, The Arbors, which is open Thursday to Saturday nights.

“Nutrition is definitely a big thing here,” Kennedy says. “I want to use fresh herbs and spices, the freshest food possible and local food. We started doing wine pairing afternoons. I will eventually do demonstration cooking to really get the residents excited and involved.”

Prior to Royal Oaks, Kennedy was spending 18 hours a day in kitchens. He’s still as busy, but he’s packing that work into nine or 10 hours a day. He enjoys having time to spend with his family.

Kennedy is keen on defying retirement home communities’ reputations.

“They have a stigma of food being slopped on a plate and drinking it through a straw,” he says. “This is nowhere near that. The food is fresh, and it’s presented nicely. Once I heard from Mark, the food services director, and he said it was upscale, that excited me. I can design the kitchens and menus and move forward.”

As far as his go-to dish, Kennedy says he makes a mean beef wellington.

“It’s a showstopper,” he says. “It’s a nice beef tenderloin, which is wrapped in a French crepe with mushroom puree, and then it’s wrapped in a puff pastry and baked in the oven.

“At Royal Oaks, I want everyone to be really happy with me. I want to give everyone something they like. That’s my goal here.”

Royal Oaks

10015 W. Royal Oak Road, Sun City