Kenny Wagoner has been involved in the art of food since a young age. At 13, he was already learning the ropes at fish and chip shops and pubs in his hometown of Dublin.
In the early ’80s, Wagoner and his family made the big move from Ireland to Oklahoma. When asked how he got to the Sooner State specifically, Wagoner is quick to showcase that famous Irish wit.
“On an airplane, love,” he says.
But really, it’s an interesting story.
“How did I get to Okla-homa?” he asks with an exaggerated, faux-American accent. “Well, my old man was talking to a Marine outside the American Embassy in Dublin. He was saying Oklahoma was a great place to go if you ever have a chance to visit America.” And so, off they went.
Fast-forward to Tulsa in 1993, and Wagoner’s career blossomed under the leadership of chef Jacques Lissonet at the now-closed Westin Hotel. Wagoner later finished his appenticeship in Hilton Head, South Carolina, but returned to Oklahoma soon after and has been here for 18 years.
Always ready for a new adventure, Wagoner and his twin brother, Keith, bought Paddy’s Irish Restaurant in 1998, and ran it together until its closing in 2008. Wagoner also began a career at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in 2004, where he acted as the executive chef for 12 years.
“I learned a lot about food and how you can use it as a type of medicine,” he says. “My mother is a breast cancer survivor. That’s what drew me there initially. It really was a personal endeavor of mine to get to know all that better.”
However, the call to reopen the family business beckoned, so Wagoner and his brother did just that in August 2016. The revamped restaurant has a similar vibe to what Wagoner refers to as the “old Paddy’s,” with the same beloved Irish dishes and a staff filled with many of Wagoner’s relatives.
“Families have grown up at the old Paddy’s, and we wanted to bring that back,” he says. “We’re also a working class family, and we wanted our pricing to speak to that.”
With such a lively, warm atmosphere, Paddy’s can be defined quite simply.
“If there was one word to describe [Paddy’s], it’s the Irish word ‘craic,’” he says. “It’s great fun, great food and all the above at a reasonable price.”