Neil Connolly, former chef to the Kennedy family and executive chef of the short-lived Doc’s restaurant in Orlando, died Thursday after an extended battle with cancer. He was 66.
Connolly was the private chef for Edward M. Kennedy and his mother, Rose F. Kennedy, from 1983 until 1995. In 2007 he published “In the Kennedy Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections of a Great American Family,” which he co-authored with Elizabeth Benedict.
In 2005, he opened Doc’s, an upscale restaurant on Orange Avenue across from Orlando Regional Medical Center (now Orlando Health). Although the food was critically acclaimed, the restaurant struggled. In 2008, Connolly announced that the restaurant would become part of the Professional Culinary Institute, which was to open a branch of its school for culinary and wine education in Orlando. But just several months after the announcement, and following open houses for prospective students and the completion of one wine class, the school closed.
Faced with the recession and a dearth of good jobs for executive chefs, Connolly moved back to his native New England to accept a job as food and beverage director at Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, New Hampshire. Most recently, he was executive chef at Avila Golf and Country Club ins Tampa.
Connolly was well respected among his peers and often honored by them. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse had Connolly as a guest on his Food network television show, where he introduced Connolly as “my mentor.”
Connolly died at his home in Winter Park. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, son, Sean, and three grandchildren. He is also survived by two brothers and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Services will be held at St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church in Winter Park on Tuesday, May 7 at 10 a.m. preceded by a wake service at St. Margaret Mary’s Chapel on Monday May 6 at 6:30 p.m.