Peter Kelly Brings His Cuisine – and Cachet – to Abbey Inn & Apropos

At Apropos Restaurant & Bar, Chef Kelly (right), Irene Ginsburg and Sanjeev Rai toast a new beginning. Photo: Bruce Apar

Hudson Valley culinary master Peter Kelly has been at the top of his game – and his profession – for decades. He is in the rare echelon of chefs whose name also is a brand. Now Chef Kelly has reached another peak, literally  – this one in Peekskill, atop Fort Hill, at The Abbey Inn & Spa. 

That is where the celebrity chef  – in addition to overseeing his popular dining destinations of X20 Xaviars on the Hudson in Yonkers and Restaurant X & The Bully Boy Bar in Congers – has taken on a new role, as Culinary Director of the Inn’s Apropos Restaurant & Bar, as well as the 42-room boutique hotel’s catering operations.   

“It’s a very magical place here, overlooking the Hudson,” Kelly told River Journal North of the former St. Mary convent that Martin Ginsburg of Ginsburg Development Corp. (GDC) transformed into a luxury hospitality destination. “It’s non-denominational,” said Kelly, “but it feels like someone is watching over us.”  

Bringing Chef Kelly on board is the most visible part of what the Ginsburg organization is treating as a relaunch. After efforts to work with outside management companies did not meet GDC’s expectations, it now is operating the property itself. 

In the new order, Irene Ginsburg (wife of Martin) has assumed a more hands-on role, working with Kelly and new General Manager Sanjeev Rai 

“This is a return to my roots,” said Kelly, who in 1983 opened his first restaurant, “just up the hill” from Peekskill, Xaviar’s at Garrison. Over the next 40 years would follow another four restaurants. Before opening his own place, Kelly worked at a four-star restaurant in Manhattan, Restaurant Laurent, “with probably the best wine cellar in the country at the time.”  

A broader selection of “deep vintage” wine is among the tweaks he has in store for Apropos and the Inn’s 1,000-bottle wine cellar, which he informally referred to as The Ginsburg Collection. “We have increased the wine cellar five-fold. Whether you want a $40 bottle or $440 bottle, we’ll have it. To find a 30-year-old wine on a list is rare these days,” he said.  

Food isn’t the only new focal point at the Abbey Inn & Spa these days, said Sanjeev Rai. He said its social media will be “more active in spreading the word that we are here.” 

Part of that message is presenting the property as more welcoming to a wider swath of demographics. “We want the community to embrace the restaurant,” Kelly said, “and to feel comfortable, whether it’s a pastrami sandwich or to experience our contemporary American-style menu in the dining room.” There are menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and Happy Hour. Under consideration is a $39.95 two-course menu for Monday-Thursday dining. Kelly noted, “We have all kinds of stay-and-dine packages.”  

Plans also are afoot to present more live jazz, as it recently has done, and to host writers, cigar-and-scotch events, and perhaps topical salons.  

As with his other venues, Kelly sees his new outpost as “a work in progress. I am fortunate to have a wonderful team. I am at X20 every day, and a lot of attention also will be directed here.” Adrian Glatz is Executive Chef at Abbey Inn & Spa.  

The Chef’s signature cuisine boasts an international flair. Apropos’s new Kelly-infused menu “presents local ingredients that are prepared with European techniques and Asian embellishments.”  

As an example, Kelly said his custard incorporates uni (sea urchin) from Kyoto, Japan, but also is by way of France, and lighter on the palate.  

“It’s not a fusion cuisine,” Kelly said, “which is more like confusion cuisine. It’s creating products that are not usually served.”  

He points to another heavy influence on his culinary practice. “Any good food served should be farm-to-table, not supermarket-to-table. There are farms all around us. That’s what we do.” 

Irene Ginsburg summed up what’s going on these days high above the Hudson at Abbey Inn & Spa and Apropos Restaurant & Bar: “This is a new beginning. We want people to know it’s not out of their means to come here. So many people who come here didn’t know it existed. Now, the biggest hook we have is Peter.”   

Kelly’s own point of view is that “The biggest hook we have is the facility, the spirit of adventure and of discovery. I’ve spent 40 years trying to promote our Hudson Valley. I was drawn here because this is a celebration of the Hudson Valley. You drive up and wonder, ‘So this is Peekskill… who knew?’ Who knew is Martin and Irene Ginsburg.”  

Bruce Apar is Editorial Director and Associate Publisher of River Journal. 

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About the Author: Bruce Apar