Author and Executive Chef Neil P. Connolly, 66, of Winter Park, Florida, and formerly of Boston and Cape Cod, passed away on May 2 after a long and valiant battle with cancer at his home in Winter Park, FL, surrounded by family members. He was one of New Englands most famous chefs, winning the New England Culinary Associations Grand Salon Gold Medal three straight years in a row during the 1980s. Among Mr. Connollys clients were U.S. Senator Edward M. Ted Kennedy and his mother, Rose F. Kennedy. For a dozen years, from 1983 to 1995, he was their private Executive Chef. He also functioned as Executive Chef for all major family entertaining and special events at the Hyannis Port Compound. He was in charge of such occasions as celebrity and fund-raising dinners and elaborate star-studded clambakes on the beach. One especially exciting assignment was working with Caroline Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis to throw a luncheon for Maria Shriver as she was about to marry Arnold Schwarzenegger. Besides all the regular meals, dinner parties, brunches, wedding receptions, and birthday celebrations, Chef Connolly kept the kitchen well-stocked and catered boat lunches on Senator Kennedys beloved sailboat, the Mya. It was during this time (1988) that Mr. Connolly headed a New England Culinary Olympic team to Frankfurt, Germany where he garnered a perfect score and four gold medals in the world-wide competition event. He has been honored as a distinguished Visiting Chef at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., and the James Beard Foundation in New York City, the Chaine des Rostisseurs, and The Honorable Order of the Golden Toque Society, to mention only a few of his associations. He was also elected to the world-wide Escoffier Club of Paris, France, named after the King of Chefs, Georges Auguste Escoffier. Chef Connolly spent a lifetime in professional kitchens, restaurants, hotels and private clubs. Most recently, he was the executive chef at the Avila Golf and Country Club in Tampa, Florida. One of Chef Connollys best culinary collauges was Chef Emeril Lagasse. A few years ago Chef Lagasse invited Chef Connolly onto his popular Food network TV show. This is my mentor, he told the audience. To the delight of the audience, the two chefs cooked some of Chef Connollys culinary creations on the show. Before moving to Florida, Mr. Connolly was a resident of Sandwich, MA, for more than thirty years. He is survived by his beloved wife of thirty-nine years, Kathy (Conway) Connolly of Winter Park, FL and his dear son and daughter-in-law, Sean and Amy Connolly, also of Winter Park, and their daughters Shea, Chatham and Molly. He also leaves his brother Stephen Connolly and his wife Anita Mukarji-Connolly of Buzzards Bay, MA and brother Barry Connolly and his wife Beverly of Burlington, VT. Along with brother in laws Kevin Conway and wife Patti, Richard Conway and late wife Marji, Jack Conway, Tom Conway and wife Marianne, Bob Conway and wife Trish all of New England. Neil was also loved and adored by numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. The funeral will be held at St. Margaret Marys Catholic Church in Winter Park, FL on Tuesday May 7th at 10:00am preceded by a Wake Service at St. Margaret Marys Chapel on Monday May 6th at 6:30pm.
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Published in The Cape Codder from May 4 to May 11, 2013