5 things to know about The Poppy & Parliament with Chef Kristen

chef kristen poppy & parliament
Chef Kristen is the Executive Chef and General Manager at The Poppy & Parliament in downtown Huntsville. (The Poppy & Parliament / Facebook)

If you’ve ever experienced an evening at The Poppy & Parliament, you know Huntsville’s lucky to have it.

From the top-notch food to the authentic European atmosphere, every part of The Poppy & Parliament has been carefully crafted to give Huntsville a truly unique restaurant.

We sat down with Chef Kristen Caroselli, Executive Chef and General Manager, to find out more about the story behind The Poppy & Parliament, and we got to know a little bit more about her experience as Executive Chef.

1. How The Poppy became The Poppy & Parliament

poppy & parliament
The little details truly stand out in this space. (Sarah Gronberg / Hville Blast)

Along North Side Square in downtown Huntsville, you can’t miss the bright red telephone booth near the sidewalk. The near-immovable piece is straight from England and predates the reign of Queen Elizabeth (you can tell because of the crown emblem at the top). The booth has made its appearance in many Huntsvillians’ social media feeds, and it conveys the authenticity and character that you’ll find inside The Poppy & Parliament.

In 2019, this spot started out as a British pub named The Poppy. When Shane Brown and Chef Barry O’Connor took over ownership, they expanded it to include food as well as a butcher shop and market upstairs.

In 2020, the Poppy & Parliament was born.

Chef Barry was the one that got Chef Kristen Caroselli, Executive Chef and General Manager, to move to Huntsville.

2. Chef Kristen has loads of experience

poppy & parliament chef kristen
She has been published in a cookbook! (The Poppy & Parliament / Facebook)

Chef Kristen grew up in New York, about an hour and a half outside of New York City. But, she traveled far beyond New York to pursue her passion.

Chef Kristen always had an artistic mind, but didn’t like creative outlets like painting or drawing. As she was exploring her options for a career path, she didn’t like the idea of working a desk job.

Her artistic mind led her to pursue a Baking and Pastry Arts degree at Johnson & Wales University. She continued to perfect her art through a certificate program ENSP (École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie) in France.

When Chef Kristen returned to the US, she realized that, although she loved baking and pastry arts, she wanted to explore the culinary side of things as well.

Everyone assumed she would go on Food Network, but she had other ideas. Chef Kristen wanted to work in a test kitchen, so she did. She worked at the USDA in the Human Nutrition Research Center and also as a Diet Technician for a while. But, “it just wasn’t it,” she said.

“I branched out from that research and development world and applied all over the place.”

Chef Kristen Caroselli, Executive Chef and General Manager

Even though she didn’t have much experience at the time, she ended up getting an Executive Chef position in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at just 23 years old. It was a big leap of faith for her, but she said that the worst that could happen would be that she hated it. Luckily, she didn’t.

“I don’t see myself ever leaving a kitchen. It’s absolutely where I need to be.”

Chef Kristen Caroselli, Executive Chef and General Manager

It was in Tuscaloosa that she met Chef Barry O’Connor, who got her to move to Huntsville to come alongside him in opening a new restaurant—The Poppy & Parliament.

3. It’s a place for everyone

poppy & parliament
The authentic pub experience. (Sarah Gronberg / Hville Blast)

Chef Kristen said that, at The Poppy & Parliament, they want to “provide an awesome experience for everybody.” That includes everybody from the ones that want to “scream at a rugby match” to the “grandma and four kids coming in from church.”

And everybody does get an awesome experience here—an experience that’s immersive and authentic.

“We kind of want it to be encapsulating the entire culture of Europe—you’re walking in here and you don’t feel like you’re in Huntsville.”

Chef Kristen Caroselli, Executive Chef and General Manager

That idea permeates through the space—from the food, to the music, to the decorations to the level of service.

All those details come together to create a fine dining experience in a comfortable, accessible environment.

Chef Kristen’s favorite part about her position at The Poppy & Parliament is “watching the reactions of people when they get the food.” Diners come in thinking that they’re going to get typical, greasy American pub food, and they end up having an amazing meal (some diners have even told Chef Kristen that it’s the best meal of their lives).

Those amazing meals include the most popular item—the fish and chips, of course. There’s so much more on the menu, though, including some of Chef Kristen’s favorites like the beef tartare.

“It’s beautiful every time and super unique compared to what you’d get other places.”

Chef Kristen, Executive Chef and General Manager

She also loves the charcuterie with European-style tapas, because it gives her an opportunity to be creative. It’s always the same amazing item, but she gets to change it up and create new features to mix up the flavors.

In the kitchen, Chef Kristen loves working with the staff to help them improve.

“I love watching the staff come in and learn and grow and work into their strengths and figure out their weaknesses and work upon that.”

Chef Kristen, Executive Chef and General manager

But The Poppy & Parliament goes beyond the kitchen, bar and dining room.

4. You simply must go upstairs

If you’re stopping on the ground floor of The Poppy & Parliament, you’re missing out.

Upstairs, you’ll find a butcher shop and European groceries, grab-and-go and gifts. They hand-cut all their meats at the butcher shop in-house, and the meat is always fresh.

The meat is a comparable price to what you’ll find in grocery stores, but it’s higher-quality and can be cut just to your liking if you call and reserve it ahead of time. And, as a bonus, there’s a chef there to give you tips on how to cook your meat perfectly when you take it home.

While you’re getting meat, you can shop around for the unique European groceries they have stocked on the shelves. You’ll find mushy peas, baked beans, malt vinegar and anything else that would be in a European pantry.

You’ll also find cold cases with grab-and-go items, pastries, chutneys, olives and cheeses. There’s even a coffee station and gifts, too!

5. Where you can find them

poppy & parliament
The charm of this place is hard to beat. (Sarah Gronberg / Hville Blast)

After all this talk about The Poppy & Parliament’s delicious food, authentic atmosphere and stocked bar, you’re probably planning your first or next visit.

Here’s where you can find The Poppy & Parliament, where Chef Kristen is always cooking up authentic, fresh English pub food.

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Sarah Gronberg
Sarah Gronberg
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