Saturday, October 13, 2012

18 Bay Restaurant, Shelter Island Hosts The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook 10/14 & Unpublished Preview

Sunday, October 14, 3 pm I will co-host a dinner at 18 Bay Restaurant,  Shelter Island. 
A 4-course, market-driven, Chefs tasting menu will be served.
The menu features recipes from the book created by the restaurant’s two chefs: Chefs Adam Kopels and Elizabeth Ronzetti
I am thrilled to meet guests and sign books. 
Homemade pasta

The cost for the dinner is $65 and includes a copy of the autographed book. Reservations are not necessary but suggested.  Dinner starts at 3pm.
The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook is a collection of outstanding recipes from Long Island’s finest locavore, homegrown chefs who give every plate a striking sense of place, and the farmers they work with to bring the freshest locally grown, sustainable foods to their menus.
18 Bay is located at 23 North Ferry Road on Shelter Island. (631) 749-0053

18 Bay Original and unpublished profile:
Surely it is no coincidence that the fine arts share a quixotic dynamic with the culinary arts.
Aficionados of both artistic genres thirst to discover startling new talent and compositions, yet yearn to revisit and rediscover the unexplored in the familiar.
New or old, art continuously challenges and provokes us.  

That is precisely what the culinary artists Elizabeth and Adam do at their 18 Bay restaurant. 
Every night.
The food they love to share is at the brilliant crossroad of unimaginable creations and reinterpreting much-loved favorites.

Chefs Elizabeth and Adam characterize 18 Bay as “Inspired seafood restaurant.” 
In fact, it’s so much more.  

They somewhat cheekily but sincerely profess their restaurant to be a lifestyle restaurant that is almost more about their lifestyle ¾ in the true European sense. 
They claim to emulate the great seafood restaurants on the Ligurian coast, for example, which won’t open when there’s stormy weather or there isn’t any catch of the day. 
That’s their excuse – it’s a lifestyle restaurant and that includes theirs. 

The truth is much more complex.

While categorizing 18 Bay Restaurant and its hours of operation (open five days a week: Wed through Sun and dinner only – which is uncharacteristically civilized), once you taste even a sampling of their culinary work, you don’t care about anything more than the food. 
This couple is the undiscovered culinary genius you want to tell the world about. 
If you are the foodie traveling to Nano or Il Brulli, just hop on the jitney or the LIRR to Shelter Island!

How did this seemingly “odd couple” who arrived at the culinary arts from polar opposites come to orchestrate such sublime yet simple recipes?

That too is a rather not so simple yet charming story.

Elizabeth had come to the Long Island restaurant where Adam was working in order to obtain her culinary school externship there.  Her research?  Reading the menu posted on the outside door! 
Her instincts have never failed her.
She had been working with a private chef but needed formal training in a restaurant.  She needed to fulfill just 300 hours. 

Adam on the other hand had years of formal restaurant status notched on his belt and was in the area working to help out a friend of a friend in between his successful NYC restaurant schedule. 
He enjoyed a certain rapport with the school and prided himself on his “technique-driven kitchen.”

Adam describes the talent pool in that part of Long Island then as fairly shallow – so when he saw somebody who was serious about cooking with her passions in the right place, he begged her to stay on to be his sous chef.

She promptly turned him down.  

She had found the perfect little space in Bayville for exactly the kind of restaurant she wanted to open. 

So he did what was necessary and quite his job to work for her.

Was it love?  Of sorts. 
Not the romantic partnering that would come later, but he admits he was lonely for the kind of passion and commitment he’d shared with nearly every chef he felt honored to have worked for in the past. 
And when he cooked with Elizabeth he felt the current that existed between them. 
Their talents flowed together naturally
They both intuitively recognized their good fortune.
If they could harness his Tracy to her Hepburn – they knew that together they could do really great stuff.

After about a year – they worked out an equal partnership.

One of the first things you notice about Adam besides his quick smile and dead to rights humor is his intelligence. (How many chefs quote Voltaire and Melville?) And his witty analogies: the two most recurring being that of the colorful pirate ship and music’s rock stars. (He says Tom Colicchio is an “Eric Clapton” and Mario Batali is a “Jimmy Page.”)

Adam had been working formally in the restaurant business a little over 10 years when he met Elizabeth.   He likes to say he wasn’t a chef but a cook – and is fairly sensitive about that.  When asked the difference, he deliberately explains, “Chef is French term that means ‘chief’ and if you are not the one in charge – you’re not a chef.  So a lot of people assume if one is a professional cook you are a chef; but if you are a sailor, it doesn’t mean you’re a captain.”  
We were on the high seas of the pirate ship already. 

In the beginning, he says that being young and poor and hungry, he worked restaurant jobs because one is guaranteed at least one meal a day.
He was a latchkey kid in Long Island and Queens; his parents were divorced and his Mother worked full time. 
He jokes the first exposure he had to anything related to being a chef was “Chef Boy R Dee!”
Referring to his less than modest means growing up; he says he was a punk rocker in Queens where the words “foie gras” didn’t come up a lot in conversation.   
Living in their basement apartment, he remembers being starved for nature too, so he started to forage in the beautiful parks in and around Queens.
He was impressed and rewarded by the diversity of the plants and people he found in the parks and botanical gardens, especially the first-generation Korean grandmothers who were grazing.  He’d trail behind them and do what he saw them doing.

Euell Gibbons’ books also influenced him. He was transported to a different, better world. Before too long, Adam was stalking wild asparagus and blue-eyed scallops.
Later, all the products pouring out of the Babbo restaurant walk-in would stimulate Adam to a new galaxy of startling discoveries such as annise hyssop & salsify. 
He would   research the botanicals in J. Peters Field Guide and, in turn, that led to other tantalizing discoveries.

Over the course of his adolescence, he worked in a number of local restaurants and chains working the front of the house, dishwashing, and cooking.

He always loved cooking and it followed that he wanted to be a chef. A real chef.
His closest friend Alex had a house in Cape Cod, (Alex’s sister is James Beard award-winning food and wine writer, Dara Moskowitz).  Adam claims she was their “alter hero.” 
“Dara was a sous chef at the Cape’s Lighthouse restaurant – a bit more upscale than where the lad’s worked at Lobster Hut.  There they were shucking clams, cleaning lobsters and clarifying butter to pour over the clams.  And we were thrilled with that.” Adam recalls. 

After high school he immediately enrolled in The French Culinary Institute in Manhattan for his formal training.  He admits he didn’t have a lot of direction in his life then but he determined the proper approach was to graduate and work as a chef in Manhattan.

If he was going to get on a pirate ship, he figured it might as well be Blackbeard’s.
He was reading Moby Dick at the time and confesses he felt some solidarity with the classic’s opening: My name is Ishmael and the parallel of nothing is happening; and the choice of getting on a fishing boat in lieu of committing suicide.
In a less literary comparison, Adam explains “Back in the day – before any glamour was attached to restaurants and cooking, there were a lot of unsavory characters in the kitchens.  And I was comfortable there...” 
Furthermore he points out how restaurant work, particularly cooking, demands many, many hours.  “It’s not 9 to 5.” 
“It’s a closed-up community working together to get through the service. There is a family-like camaraderie that develops, especially because you don’t really see a lot of other people.” 
In other words, it’s the classic life-boat syndrome.

Adam admits his life would certainly have taken a different turn if he hadn’t had a friend from Queens, Chris Ilardi, who had worked for the Bastianiches family at Becco and Felidia’s world-class restaurants and when it was time for Adam’s school externship, helped him secure an enviable position at a new restaurant just opening: Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca. 
“Chris said to me ‘I know Mario Batali – my old boss Joe is building a restaurant with him next year.  If you want to do your externship with him, let me know.’ ”

So through a combination of dumb luck and connections, Adam got the externship at Mario Batali’s Babbo restaurant the year it opened.
“And that’s where everything changed for me – in a matter of hours.”

You could say he found the pirate’s treasure chest.

At that time the Food Network was brand new.  “We all watched and loved this guy Mario.”
Adam recalls still star-struck, “He was amazing.  He walked you through historical references and why you do the things you do.  He told us, if you concentrate, you can get this done. Plus, Mario would show you WHY it’s done --Why cultures did it this way or that way. He often cooked with a map. I found that exciting.” Adam says. 

Babbo is a regional style Italian restaurant located on a quiet street in New York’s Greenwich Village.  Street-side it looks like a European auberge in a townhouse.  Indoors it’s all cozy living room and giant floral displays. 
“It was a fairly small staff for a restaurant that size,” says Adam.  “Consequently, I was privy to butchering and sauce-making¾basics I wouldn’t have gotten in a bigger kitchen.”  Adam worked days but diligently spent extra time there in order to assist anyone who might need help with anything.  He was looking for experience and opportunity.   “The amazing thing about being a garde manger at Babbo is it didn’t mean just mean cold salads,” Adam noted.

He also remembers how the small kitchen staff executing everything was very intense. Mark Ladner, the sous chef, worked a lot like Mario.  “They worked so freakin’ smart, so intense.  If you just spend a few minutes with them you could feel the energy and know they were smarter, better.”
Babbo got an enormous amount of exposure in a short period of time.  It was 1998.

Pivotal to Adam’s culinary training was working for Chef Mark Ladner. 
“He took me under his wing – or maybe I should say I forced him to take me on,” Adam shrugs. 
“I was at the chefs’ disposal, learning and absorbing. I’d gotten on the Pirate Ship and left port. I was low man on the totem pole and felt whatever they needed me to do – I was the guy to do it.”
He was aware of the educational privilege he was getting. He knew his classmates were not having the same extraordinary experience. 
“I lived it!”  And he absolutely loved it. To this day, he claims he feels the same way.

He remembers Chef Mario stopping me in the hallway two weeks into his externship and asking him, ‘How ya’ doing?’  and I looked at him and said, ‘You know Chef, I, I, I,’ and he said, ‘You’re just thankful to be in a real restaurant, aren’t you?’ And I said, Yes, Chef.’”
He couldn’t communicate how appreciative he was. But he believes Chef Mario understood that.

Adam explains he wouldn’t pretend that he understood that what Chef Mario was doing then was revolutionary but he did sense how incredibly talented the staff was.
How carefully he must have chosen them.
How intensely they worked.
“And the final product was something way over my head.”  That he understood. 
” My education started there,” he states.

Looking back, Adam believes that that kind of regional Italian food was not taken as seriously prior to Babbo. The simple, authentic food was not as respected in the halls of French haute cuisine until Babbo. 
“Mario and Joe came across the finish line wearing all the medals.”
It was different from Daniel and Bouley.  How different?  “It was like listening to Jane’s Addiction at the Babbo bar and Sade at the other celebrity chefs’ restaurants,” he grins. 
Mario saw food from the Italian sensibility with a kind of refinement and a pride toward locality, Adam describes.

After he completed school, Adam was asked to help open Lupa restaurant with Chef Mark Ladner.   Lupa was backed in part by Joe and Mario but even so, out of respect, Adam asked Chef Mario for permission to go to Lupa.

Adam felt he was widely privileged to be one of four original Lupa staff.
Opening this restaurant at this pace was a new and valuable experience for Adam. 
He didn’t question the hours or the pay. “You just put your head down and did what you had to do.” 
They all worked outside their job description. 
“One thing you will never say in a professional kitchen is, “It’s not my job.” 
He believes that’s part of why Chef Mark took him on. 
Adam consistently demonstrated an ability to get along as family with all the restaurant staff. 
In the Lupa kitchen, he proudly noted it was the ‘Elite of the Elite’ working there. 
He was part of that team. “And there was no mental or physical barrier that could have stopped me. I just wanted to deliver. “
The combination of incredible food and a relaxed, laid-back dining environment insured Lupa was successful from the beginning.
“Almost every job I got was due to Lupa,” says Adam.  “All restaurant owners want a Lupa.”
As a cook working for any of Chef Mario’s restaurants, it was expected of them to utilize local Farmer’s Markets. 
And this was before locavore became more popular in 1999 to 2000.  The expectation of course was to get the best product.  It was not hip or trendy at that time; in fact, organic was ugly then, Adam remembers.
The cooks had to be at the market first thing in the morning -- see the product --get it and be creative with the inspired ingredients. 
Further, Chef Mario had instituted an unusual schedule for his four-star restaurants’ cooking staff.  “He expected us to work in the kitchen five, then six days per week and on our ‘day off’ to come to the restaurant and do something creative. Make a terrine or family meal,” explains Adam.   “Chefs Mario and Mark expected us to want to do it – and we did!”

Despite the incredible environment and learning, Adam thought he needed to see something different; work for another management team. 
He got off the pirate ship at Lupa after about a year.  He worked for a number of different restaurants over the next few years.
It was after the September 11th attacks and he was struggling, looking for that something that was missing.
Eventually he moved to San Francisco, saying he secretly wished to be the house forager for Chez Panisse.
He didn’t last a year on the west coast.
He remembers popping open a really fresh Wellfleet oyster.  “I tasted the salt water and my heart sank.  I said I gotta go.” Within weeks he left for home.

He missed his terroir.

He was helping out that friend of a friend working at a small restaurant near Huntington, Long Island. 
He’d made a conscious decision that his next life chapter was to be reed grass and dunes and the sandy South Fork and all the things that make Long Island the most beautiful place in the world.

Then Elizabeth walked into the restaurant.

Elizabeth grew up in a big nurturing Italian family on Long Island’s South Shore.  Her grandparents were both from Italy: her grandmother from Avelino – outside of Naples and her grandfather from Bari in the heel of the boot. 
Food was always so incredibly sensual.  
To Elizabeth, there was nothing novel about picking fresh tomatoes and basil.
She enjoyed the big Sunday and holiday meals with the extended family. 
It was just a natural, simple, pure way of life that came naturally. 

She doesn’t buy into the pirate ship restaurant philosophy posited by Adam. 
Her feminine approach to outstanding cooking and owning a restaurant is more about the nurturing -- the extension of self, wanting to share the bounty and good food that nature offers.
She is all elegance and warmth.
Elizabeth comes at being a chef from a natural point of view.
“The restaurant is an extension of my home. I want to share what I’ve always enjoyed and almost taken for granted,” she explains.

Growing up she was always underfoot in the kitchen.  Everyone participated in meal preparations.  “When it was time to make pasta, we all helped.” 

Curiously, she never thought she’d be a chef.
However she never doubted she would own a restaurant!

Elizabeth is an iconoclast in many ways.

She learned from her family to allow the fresh, natural flavors of the ingredients to be central to the gustatory experience.  It was only later in cooking school where she heard of this practice in the inverse.  The students were taught “to not over-handle or over-manipulate the product.”  
Almost inconceivably, Elizabeth had no restaurant experience prior to owning her own fine dining establishment.  She never waitressed; nor did she ever cook in a restaurant. 
But in order to realize her dream of running a restaurant, she decided it might be beneficial to attend culinary school to learn proper technique. 
A rather precocious means to an end.

She attended the local Culinary Academy of Long Island in Syosset mainly because it offered a short, nine-month instruction and a three-month externship program.
After waiting a lifetime to own a restaurant, she preferred the culinary training be as brief as possible. 
Nevertheless, she is pragmatic and recognized she’d be better off credentialed and learned in the ways of culinary technique. “I knew it was very different cooking professionally than it is cooking from home, in your mother’s kitchen,“ she says without irony.

She is fiercely and sweetly determined.  And focused.

“The way I found that restaurant in Huntington for my externship was first knowing I didn’t want a traditional or typical restaurant.” 
She perused Adam’s menu offerings that were posted out front and she found the recipes very appealing. She walked in asked “Do you guys need help?” 
She must’ve been a vision. 

She asked if she could do her externship at the restaurant. 
She explained that at that time and in that part of Long Island “there weren’t a whole lot of restaurants that had a dedication to adhere to fresh local, simple food preparation. It was not a red sauce kinda of a place!” she jokes. 
Then thinking about it for a moment she adds diplomatically and generously, that that style of what might be termed second generation local Italian, will come back around in a true, homegrown, simply delicious way, too. 

Meanwhile, Elizabeth was wowing the customers and staff at the Huntington restaurant with menu items like lemon-scented ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms. She was using fine olive oil and great crunchy salt to finish off the fresh from the garden vegetables and was turning out all kinds of home made pastas like black ink tagliolini from the locally-caught squid. 
Everyone was breathless at these eye–popping, mouth-watering creations. 
Not dismissively, she shrugged it off.  
Referencing her family traditions, she said, “It’s just how we cooked.  We worked out of the garden classics for a reason. It’s not difficult.”  
She must have wondered, “Didn’t everyone cook this way?” 
She didn’t know another way to cook. 
The rest of the culinary world was working overt-time to master what she did effortlessly. 

Adam saw the talent and passion for cooking in Elizabeth.
It was obvious she understood food.  It was second nature to her and he could tell by the way she handled things. He noticed there was a love and adoration of a radish. 
She manifested an innate awe of the ingredients. She wanted to share how beautiful the radicchio is.

“It’s that Passion that gets you up at 7 am --after coming in at 2 am. To fulfill the recipe idea that somehow got in your head – and you won’t be satisfied until you can make it,” he says describing part of the artistic process that was honed at Babbo and Lupa.  “It’s when you are thinking, ‘Gotta get the Chiogga Beets. Not just red beets.’”
He saw how she always wanted to get the best products at the Farmers markets. Or in his terms, “Finding all the good toys. “

When her externship was complete, Elizabeth wasted no time finding the optimum spot to open her restaurant.

She knew the area’s demographics.  When she took out a map to show Adam the location and asked for his help to open the Bayville restaurant, Adam thought, “Well the place can’t hurt me with 16 seats! “  Perhaps with some of the early pirate ship adrenaline, he mentally boasted, “I can cook seven courses for 16 seats by myself.”  
He saw she was brilliant and beautiful. Then he sat back in awe of her.

Elizabeth had no point of reference.  She started off small with a short, beautiful, original bar, just those16 seats (they now have a walloping 28 garnered when they closed off a porch area.).  
(*And please note, have since moved location to Shelter Island.)
She grew up in this kind of atmosphere going to her grandmother’s on Sunday for antipasto, pasta, meat, potatoes, and vegetables.

She admits it was a leap of faith to open 18 Bay. 
But her motivations were pure.
She said she didn’t want compromises. 
“It was less about the money and more about doing good and wanting to give back.”
She knew she didn’t want to work for someone to hear them say, “You have to have tilapia on your menu!”

Adam did help her get started.   Looking back they laugh how the meat got stolen off the truck from the Bronx, the decorating, the ordering of everything.

Then without warning, Adam got a call from Chef Mark Ladner to come help open Del Posto in Manhattan.  It was a behemoth project. 
“While that was exactly what I wanted to do, I took the summer to work and help Elizabeth get started.  And because I believed once I got on that pirate ship no one would see me for years,” he said.

“I knew Adam was going to Del Posto,” said Elizabeth. “I didn’t want him to miss that opportunity.”  Wistfully, she logged all his amazing culinary history and chef positions and fought against knowing he had to do it. 
She was just grateful for his help opening 18 Bay. 

Then it evolved

Together, they were planning the menus and then both realized “We are a force to be reckoned with if we work together.”

Love was tearing Adam apart.  He remembers thinking “I Love Chef Mark; have all the faith in the world in him and Joe and Mario that Del Posto restaurant would be enormously great.” (note: Del Posto became the first four-star NY Times review in 36 years.)

But he loved Elizabeth’s passion and talent and unbridled optimism too.
He confided in friends and family about his dilemma and they recommended he stay with Elizabeth.
Further, he wanted the Long Island lifestyle.  He didn’t want to leave behind his terroir again.

It was a dream come true when 18 Bay opened in 2005. 
No advertising.  Good word of mouth for their delicious, exciting food made the restaurant a jewel of a find that customers couldn’t wait to recommend.

It didn’t hurt their burgeoning popularity when they garnered a top review in the New York Times.  
They even managed to weather the Capresque-like mix up in operation schedules the day the review appeared in the newspaper.
They had had no clue Joanne Starkey; Long Island restaurant critic for The New York Times had dined at 18 Bay. 
“On a very busy Saturday night a New York Times photographer came to take photos, saying ‘You’ve been reviewed.’”
Chefs Elizabeth and Adam were gob smacked.  Excited.
“You could’ve peeled me off the floor.” Elizabeth said.   But they didn’t know when the piece would be in print.  Or what it would say.

It was still their first year in Bayville; the second Independence Day weekend running the restaurant.
The first year they opened on this auspicious weekend.  That year it was with a whimper, the second year with a bang!
Having witnessed the craziness on the beach in Bayville the previous year – cars, fireworks, bonfires on the beach, families not looking for fine dining; the two figured it’s be best to close up and hang out the “gone fishin” sign.

The New York Times review ran July 2nd.  
The two chefs returned to 18 Bay after the July 4th weekend to field more than 450 calls for their 16-seat restaurant!

The menus are market-driven and it can change from morning to night.
Every day they go to the markets, see what’s fresh and plan the menus on the spot.
They “surrender to the market.”
They load up their car till it can’t possibly fit another leek or lettuce head and go to the kitchen to cook up their creations till diner is served. 

Elizabeth makes all the pastas.  
 They do all our their own pastry.

It was all perfectly natural for Elizabeth to develop the relationships with their farmers and Baymen and fisherman to get fresh, pure ingredients.  After all, she grew up in this kind of atmosphere. Hearkening back to her childhood instincts when her family developed relationships by simply asking, “Can I get my eggs from you?’ or will you supply us with scallops or lobster,” for example.  “We just asked.”

They continue to collaborate with all their purveyors.  The farmers and fisherman call their mobile phone when something comes in that they think Adam and Elizabeth want. 

Their inspired garden is Sang Lee Farms near their country house and their Shelter Island Restaurant, on the North Fork of Long Island, in the heart of the wine region.
A fourth generation farming family, Sang Lee is a well respected and recognized brand name synonymous with organic, delicious produce present at most of the Farmers Markets in the New York area.  Some might say it is the trailblazing older sibling to Satur Farms.

Customers love that there is a very real sense of intimacy in the restaurant.
Elizabeth, especially, goes out to the tables to see how their customers are enjoying the food.
“If people think they hate brussell sprouts, I say, ‘Your mother probably did something horrible to brussel sprouts but we don’t do that here. They taste them, love them, and then they trust us.”
As part of the cycle, the customers “surrender” to the chefs. 

They offer fresh herbs at the bar. There are fresh squeezed, seasonal juices. They even pickle onions for gimlets.  And they just started making fresh grenadine from beet sugar.

Their dedication and devotion to authentic, delicious food, earned them the respect of Huntington Slow Food, who gave the nod to Chefs Elizabeth and Adam to represent the local organization at Terra Madre, held bi-annually in Italy.
18 Bay was founded on the principle of what is now codified as slow food. “We get lettuces from farmers that we need to wash three to five times, but it’s worth,” they explain.

Both readily admit going to Italy and representing Huntington Slow Food was a life changing experience.
For two weeks in October that year, they closed 18 Bay, ate-as-research and were honored to speak about how to run a sustainable restaurant.

The following year, they were asked to host a group of students from Gastronomic Sciences from Italy. 
The culinary students came to Long Island to learn what local Long Island had to offer gastronomically.
Chefs Elizabeth and Adam prepared a September ‘Market Plate” Tasting Menu, proudly demonstrating the spectrum of what the bounty of Long Island terroir offers, using recipes that were both decadent and simple.
They pair somewhat regally recall how the Italians were so impressed with the local lobster and blue fish that they can’t get, finding the fish so exotic.

The Chefs also were asked to present at a special Harvard symposium on the same subject for the public at the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, regarding the “Future of Long Island.” There was a very bad thunderstorm that night, knocking out the power.  Divine intervention? A message from above?  That the ‘Terroir Arc of Taste’ ended up in a local diner only enhanced its message.

They feel privileged to showcase the spectrum of local Long Island food. “We live in the most important food area in the world.”

Chefs Adam and Elizabeth throw down a dare. A double dare.  “We’ll take you to Southhold and you can stand in ankle deep water on Peconic Bay and at your feet there will be scallops and oysters and sea rockets on the Sandy South Shore and we dare you to say there’s something any more beautiful place in the world.”

When looking to the future, Chefs Adam and Elizabeth can only think to keep it simple. To give the food value. 
To reflect the Long Island terroir.
Somewhat tellingly, Elizabeth says, “18 bay is our first restaurant.”  

Voyageur Press
Original Trade Hardcover with 4-color photos
 $30.00 US
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