In the Kitchen: Sport and Leisure’s Kenneth Pates

North Main Street kitchen’s chef specializes in leveled-up pub fare

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While the lure of many sports bars is the beer selection and the game on TV, Kenneth Pates makes sure food is never second to atmosphere at Sport and Leisure. The executive chef has crafted a menu full of street- and comfort-food dishes – including mac and cheese topped with fried pork belly, homemade panko-crusted mozzarella sticks, street corn nachos, and smash burgers – that makes the North Main Street bar stand out.

Pates brings his own hot takes to crowd-pleasing entrees. “I don’t believe in a medium-rare burger or rare burger,” he says. “I just think a smash burger with a nice thin crust is the way to go. It’s still juicy and has great flavor.” His Sunday brunch menu includes buttermilk pumpkin-spice pancakes, chicken and waffles, and an egg and cheese sandwich with a crispy hash brown tucked inside. 

“My favorite aspect of being a chef is the stories that you get to create with each spice and ingredient, and the soul and love that goes into every recipe and dish,” says Pates, who’s a member of the Narragansett Tribe. Even though it’s not overtly reflected in his current menu, he explains, “Food is big in our culture. Growing up, I lived in a house where there were so many different styles of cooking – not just Native American cooking, but African American cuisine, as well. I also got to learn all aspects of hunting and fishing, which are embedded in the roots of my tribe, and I’ve always carried this with me.” 

Pates’ first job in the restaurant industry was at Red Stripe Narragansett, where he started as a dishwasher and then moved up to prep cook. “Then one day, someone got hurt on the line, so I jumped on and became a grill cook,” he explains. “I just traveled up the ranks, moving from restaurant to restaurant, learning new techniques, and learning the ins and outs of the industry.” 

Pates previously worked at Bridge Restaurant in Westerly and Troop in

Providence, and occasionally serves as a private chef at events and parties. “Another one of my favorite aspects of being a chef is the people you meet and learn from,” he says, “and the bond you build with every chef, line cook, prep cook, server, dishwasher, and bartender, along with the customers who walk through the doors or hire you to cook for them.” 

Before joining the staff at Sport and Leisure, which opened during summer, Pates was chef and co-owner at the now-closed burger spot Bun Fun on Federal Hill, though a new reincarnation of the former joint is in the works. “We had a good run with Bun Fun and people still ask me to make some of the things we served there,” Pates says. “So, that’s why a food truck is coming – and hopefully soon.” 

Sport and Leisure108 North Main Street • 534-7873

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