March 28, 2018

Former Flying Rhino chef teams up with Milford chef for new Canal District restaurant

Courtesy | Maddi's Cookery and TapHouse
Maddi's Cookery and TapHouse will occupy the former Perfect Game spot on Water Street.

Two of the Central Massachusetts' best chefs and former rivals are now on the same team.

Chris O'Harra, former executive chef of the Flying Rhino on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, has been hired by Maddi's Cookery and TapHouse, a new restaurant slated for Worcester's Canal District opening this spring in the former Perfect Game spot.

Maddi's is the second restaurant from Adam Hicks, owner of Milford comfort food eatery Depot Street Tavern.

Both Hicks and O'Harra followed somewhat similar career paths, first as chefs at corporate food service company Sodexo before exploring their own culinary expertise.

"I am absolutely looking forward to putting our heads together and killing it in Worcester," O'Harra said when reached via phone Wednesday.

Now, they're both at the top of the Central Massachusetts culinary scene, with at least one of them among the winners at Worcester's Best Chef competition each year since 2015.

O'Harra took first place in the competition's People's Choice Award in January, while Hicks took the first place award in 2017. O'Harra finished second that year.

In 2017, Hicks also took the Perfect Palate Award, but O'Harra took home the Judge's Choice award. Hicks won the People's Choice Award in 2016 as well, but O'Harra took the award in 2015.

For the first six months Maddi's is open, O'Harra will oversee the menu. After that, he'll take over as executive chef for Depot Street Tavern as well.

The menu is not yet set, but O'Harra said he hopes to bring some of his eclectic menu ideas to Maddi's and Depot Street.

"We're going to do some fun things," he said.

Hiring one of the area's proven best chefs to start Maddi's illustrates how important the restaurant could be for the Canal District, Hicks said.

"It proves that we're not trying to be just a flash in the pan," he said. "We're here for the long term."

Having his new business partner take over the kitchen in both restaurants will allow Hicks to transition to a full-time restaurant owner, including working more with the local community.

The new restaurant, with a kitchen more than five times larger than that of Depot Street, will allow Hicks to grow his catering business to tap into the business community in Worcester.

O'Harra will have creative freedom of the menus at both restaurants while sticking to what has made Depot Street popular: belly-busting burgers, handhelds, other comfort food and a generous craft beer selection.

"I have a firm belief that if you hire the most talented people you can, good things are going to happen," Hicks said.


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