Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook Goodreads Book Contest Ends with a Kiss

Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook Goodreads Valentine's Promotion

As part of a Valentine’s Day feature promotion, my publisher’s crackerjack marketing and social media team worked with me to produce a Goodreads book giveaway.

Launched February 5th and running through Valentine’s Day, entrants had a chance to win one of four copies of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook autographed books offered in the promotion.

It’s hard not to notice that more than a few of the Long Island restaurants are the creative genius of what I have come to refer to as “Culinary Cupids.”
Meaning, either a couple who are chefs and owners and share everything.
Or a chef and front of the house manager who share everything. 

I wanted to acknowledge this “love nest” consideration and dynamic.  
Some of the chef/owners left “the city” aka Manhattan or Brooklyn -- as was most often the case – determined to open their own family-run auberge-style restaurant with either an inn and/or a garden to cater to their guests, as well.
It’s a dream. And a dream come true for so many of the Culinary Cupids in the Homegrown Cookbook.

I thought a lovely way to salute that love and dedication was with a special Valentine’s Day promotion.  And after all, the most important ingredient in any recipe is love..

Armed with love galore, the Goodreads Homegrown Giveaway garnered 565 entrants! 

Thank you to everyone who entered and who also passed on the good food, Homegrown promotion tip.
According to the publisher, this is very successful and one of their best ever Goodreads giveaway.

In addition, just shy of 220 entrants added The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbookto their ‘must read’ list, which is amazing news,” according to the publisher’s gurus.  

Amazing indeed.  Thank you again.

I am now in the process of thanking every entrant. 
And sending the autographed bookplates to the four Homegrown Winners.

They are:
Chantelle from Maryland

Tori from Virginia

Catie from Hartland, WI.  How can you not love that a Homegrown winner is from the Hartland?!

Nicky from Juneau, WI (hmmm, do we see a pattern here?! Two from the great state of Wisconsin. 
Can’t leave WI without a shout-out to my cousin, Missy and her husband Dallas who live in WI. And produce the best, scandalously good maple syrup.

Enjoy the Homegrown stories about the chefs and the growers who inspire them.
And thank you from the bottom of my Homegrown heart.

Homegrown hugs and kisses.

To join my Goodreads please visit:
I know, I have to do the blog … I will soon. 

In the meantime, you can visit the book’s Facebook page at: "Like" but really Love :)  the Homegrown book at The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Facebook page

Friday, February 8, 2013

Roger Smith Cookbook Conference Launches

Day one of the second annual Roger Smith Cookbook Conference kicked off today with a full schedule of five hands-on, interactive concurrent workshops.

Not unlike a real-life Shoots & Ladders, the boutique hotel’s narrow hallways led up and down to meeting rooms where Cookbook experts led a series of discussions on food and drink publishing issues and themes.

The two morning workshops were “Introduction to Cookbook Publishing,” led by Andrew F. Smith, one of the founding members of the Cookbook Conference, author, and educator and “Reading Cookbooks: A Structured Approach and Structured Dialogue with Barbara Ketcham Wheaton. 
The afternoon workshops were: “The Wild World of Self-Publishing,” “The Way to Look: How to Do Research with Cookbooks,” and “Cookbook Publishing 360.”

Overall, the mood was expectant, eager and hopeful. The style was casual. 

The Cookbook Conference is at the sweet spot of attracting the best cookbook authors, agents, publishers and marketers, food and drink writers and bloggers covering genres from cookies to cooking schools and kosher to Modern Sauces.
Yet the Conference is still at the emerging, pubescent stage that allows the experts and stars to share tips, support as well as joyful cocktail reception networking exchanges. 
To whit:  “What do you do?” asked one conference attendee over reception wine and treats.   “I’m a ‘wanna-be’ food writer,” sighed the star-struck food aficionado.
New-found food friend admonishes – “No, you are a gonna-be food writer!”   

This kind of koombya career embrace is no less extraordinary because the Cookbook Conference takes place in the “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere town of hard knocks: New York. And in particular, the can-be-crushing world of New York publishing.

Every workshop included a detailed syllabus.  Workshops ran three to four hours. 
The workshops offered a true value for the attendees.
There was the “first-ever, pitch clinic and slush pile Olympiad” where attendees pitched their cookbook ideas directly to the panelists aka “acquisitions committee.”

The Cookbook Publishing 360 workshop featured an all-star line-up including, Katie Workman, author The Mom 100 Cookbook and – whose enthusiasm and energy and success brightened the cookbook conversation; along with Julia M. Usher, Ultimate Cookies
Lee Svitak Dean, Food Editor, Star Tribune, Martha Holmberg, IACP and author, “Modern Sauces,” , Lori Coughlin, America’s Test Kitchen (who provided a colorful printout of a 12-step Path to Recipe Perfection) and Bonnie S. Benwick, Deputy Food Editor, The Washington Post and soon to be cookbook author in her right.  

In addition to providing expert, real-world advice, experience and anecdotes, there was no hesitation to offer metrics – as in how many books can one expect to sell, how much money can one make, along with copyright issues and e-books and
Food and drink bloggers and their impact on the world of traditional
The networking, as promised by the conference organizers, was priceless…

Like a cheerleader, Andy Smith stood on a platform at tonight’s reception, called up the Cookbook Conference co-founders including Bruce Shaw, Adam Salomone, Ann Mendelson, and Cathy Kaufman. 

Next, Smith brought up hotelier Roger Smith to thank him – while pointing out his streets cape and wall art sculpture,

 and then urged attendees guests to enjoy the really good food and get back to work  - networking!

Given the very robust food and drink Cookbook Conference content, I will provide in-depth reviews of the Cookbook Conference in upcoming news postings. 

For more on the Cookbook Conference schedule and to register:

Wine, courtesy of Spain's Franciscon Vineyards

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Goodreads Valentines Giveaway: Culinary Cupids Cook Up Valentine’s Day Menus infused with Homegrown Ingredients spiced with Love; Weekend Foodie Retreats

Valentine’s Day Homegrown Goodreads Gift Giveaway
With Valentine’s Day upon us, what better time to showcase Long Island’s Culinary Cupids and their Homegrown food philosophy and recipes?

After all, no less than George Bernard Shaw said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

To honor food lovers and lovers of romance, a special promotion from Quayside Publishing and Leeann Lavin, author of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook is featured on Goodreads, Facebook’s primary, go-to online book club.

Here, one can enter to win a Free, autographed Homegrown Cookbook. 
Plus a gift certificate to The North Fork Table & Inn Restaurant in Southold, Long Island.

The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook profiles the area’s best chefs and the artisanal growers who inspire them. Filled with food stories, delicious recipes and sumptuous photos, the book captures the authentic, homegrown ingredients that are the hallmarks of the Island’s food culture.

Goodreads Homegrown Restaurant Gift Certificate
There is an undeniable dynamic about the food culture in Long Island.
There is a heavy dollop of Love measured into the dreamy, foodie-fueled recipes and menus.
Maybe it’s the rich, lusty terroir and sweet, crisp merroir.

Like Cupid’s arrows filled with desire, Long Island love and love of food is a potent combination and an influencing role in the locavore food scene.  
That amore has endowed and inspired a cooking cohort of Hamptons & Long Island culinary artists.  Not unlike the Zen of a sensual, practiced tango, the Culinary Cupids work in syncopated tandem in their restaurants. They blend not only a romance and marriage but they also shine as working partnerships. 
In the high pressure, stress-inducing atmosphere of a busy restaurant kitchen, front of house balancing act and holidays on the job; couples who are cooks, owners and lovers with a crushing 24/7 schedule, have a lot to teach the rest of us about passion. 

Heady stuff.

The winner of the Goodreads Homegrown restaurant gift certificate will enjoy world-class dining at The North Fork Table & Inn, recently voted by food fans as an  “American Cuisine & Comfort” jewel, number one in Food and Service in the Long Island Zagat 2012/2013.”

From the North Fork Table & Inn Web site: (

The restaurant’s menu focus is seasonally inspired featuring locally grown biodynamic and organic produce, the freshest seafood from the pristine Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound and award winning North Fork artisanal cheese. Increasingly distinguished and awarded Long Island wines are highlighted on the wine list

North Fork Table & Inn Chefs Claudia Fleming & Gerry Hayden & wife & husband.
Photo courtesy, Katherine Schroeder
The James Beard cooking couple is chef Gerry Hayden and chef Claudia Fleming. 
The culinary couple is, in turn, the other half to their front of the house North Fork Table & Inn partners, Mike and Mary Mraz, who are also married.

Double the love. 

So what better homage to food and romance could there be?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the chefs refer to “combinations” with some frequency when discussing their approach to cooking: there are food combinations, balance, and dreams and rhythms…

The sparks flew for this culinary tour de force not long after they first worked together at Danny Myers’ Union Square Café. 

Chef Claudia and Gerry have allowed passion and experience to guide them. “There is a certain, lovely camaraderie here,” she says, referring to the North Fork. “We are very proud of the people that grow for us.”
Further, she adds,  “It’s a great way to live.”
The North Fork is undoubtedly a food and nature lover’s paradise.  The combination of vineyards, B&B’s and restaurants are a food destination unmatched on the east coast. 

Chef Gerry is an impatient chef.  He wants the best of everything. He’s uncompromising.  It can’t come together soon enough. Not for the community of farmers or vintners.
Nevertheless, the hands on the clock hold on to each other, poised, as he determinedly cooks and coaxes the food he adores onto the plate.  When Chef Gerry is creating his culinary masterpieces, there is nothing else. 

For a chef this focused, is there any doubt that he always knew he wanted to be a chef?
In fact there was never anything else.

The couple catered their own wedding at the Wolford Wolf Vineyard in Bridgehampton.  “Everyone loved it.”  
It was late June 2001. They served very simple striped bass, farm fresh salad, peas, and fava beans. Not unlike what they do for their clientele today, they developed the menu based on the time of year. “We cooked with the farms,” he says.
Not surprisingly, all the guests agreed the wedding dinner created a feeling of casual elegance inspired by the season. 
Claudia and Gerry formulated their restaurant style based on that unsolicited, genuine positive feedback. 
Casual elegance, seasonally inspired it would be.
And don’t forget Love.

More Culinary Cupids & Romantic Getaways

In a locale as food-obsessed as Long Island, no surprise that there’s an abundance of Culinary Cupids.   
Here’s a sampling from the Homegrown Cookbook: (check out the book for complete profiles)

Satur Farms: Celebrity Chef and farmer, Eberhard Muller and his wife Paulette Satur, horticulturist, who holds a masters degree in plant physiology, farm and supply fresh, organic, locally-grown produce to supply restaurants and retail accounts.

Cuvee Bistro & Bar, Greenporter Hotel: Chef Deborah & her husband, William manage the hotel, restaurant, bar and on-site garden.

The Frisky Oyster: Chef Robby & his wife, Shannon are co-owners of this Greenport food mecca.

Vine Street Café: husband and wife Culinary Cupids, Chefs Terry and Lisa Harwood are co-owners. (They also recently opened The Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill, Greenport)

18 Bay: Culinary Cupids Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels are chefs and co-owners who produce a magical, market-inspired menu.

Kitchen A Bistro and Kitchen A Trattoria Exacting, award-winning Chef Eric Lomando and his wife Julie are co-owners of three restaurants (at last count).  A total family affair, his father in law, Bill is his inspired grower.

The Lake House: Chef Matt Connors and his front of the house manager, decorator, gardener, wife Eileen, are co-owners of this award-winning, sterling restaurant.

Restaurant Mirabelle and Mirabelle Tavern: Iconic Chef Guy Reuge creates homegrown, palette-perfection infused with his French epicurean instincts, and his wife Maria runs the front of the restaurant and co-owner of Mirabelle. Beautiful, elegant

Chef Guy Reuge’s Valentine’s menu includes:
Amuse Bouche: Cream of Chestnuts, toasted brioche
First Course: choice of Six Fishers Island Oysters, Seared Foie Gras, Lobster Fricassee in Sauternes Bouillon, Hamachi
Main Course: Pheasant Breast and Leg, Caramelized Scallops, Roasted Veal Chop, Pan-Seared Grass Fed Shell Steak, Poached Halibut
Desserts: Passion Fruit Tart
Angel Food Cake
Ginger Almond Tart
Mirabelle Sorbet Trio
Mirabelle's Valentine Menu from Chef Guy Reuge

Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook and Edible East End Magazine photographer Lindsay Morris and her husband, Stephen Munshin, Edible East End and Edible Manhattan’s co-publisher, are stars in the Long Island culinary constellation and culinary cupids, too.

Be sure to check out these romantic getaways, featured in The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook:

North Fork Table & Inn:

Jedediah Hawkins Inn:

Bridgehampton Inn:

The American Hotel:

1770 House:

The Living Room at the Maidstone Inn:

Greenporter Hotel:

All the Culinary Cupids and romantic getaways are featured in the top-selling book: The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.  (

And be sure to Follow the food journey and adventures on Facebook: The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Facebook page

Launched in 2007, Goodreads is the largest site for readers and book recommendations in the world
Goodreads' mission is to help people find and share books they love. Along the way, they plan to improve the process of reading and learning throughout the world.

Complete Chef Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming Profile written for 
The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook (before edits and cuts to fit the book space)

A lot has been written about Chef Claudia Fleming and Chef Gerry Hayden, the husband and wife culinary couple and co-owners of the North Fork Table & Inn.
She’s a 2000 Pastry Chef James Beard Award winner and the best-selling author of her cookbook, “The Last Course, The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern.”

He’s worked alongside some of the best chefs in America (she has too) including Charlie Palmer, David Burke, and Michael Mina, while picking up awards including Esquire Magazine’s for Best Restaurant. 
Mainly, the narrative is the all-star resume of their outstanding credentials that could make a Broadway actor’s listing in Playbill green with envy at their impressive accomplishments. 
Followed by how they left the bright lights of New York City behind to open their North Fork Long Island restaurant modestly nestled among the vineyards and farms of Southold. 

But the experts got it all wrong. 
They didn’t “leave” anything behind. 
That was all just the first act. 
You could even say a rehearsal. 

Combined, their groundbreaking contributions to the culinary world, not to mention to their home base on Long Island, casts a long shadow.
These two pioneers don’t know when to leave well enough alone. 

It’s no coincidence they find themselves on the leading edge of each successive wave of the American gastronomic revolution.

It’s their insatiable curiosity, respect for the people who work to provide them with the best ingredients, and the compelling desire to build a better local infrastructure based on a foundation of quality.
And their need to develop sustainable relationships and establish community.
And then there is their relentless innovation. 
And their cuisine.  

Their creative culinary art renders the just-picked and just-caught, supplicants to their masterful creations.

Separately, they were both at the ramparts of the second stage of a golden age that swept major New York City restaurants and now referred to in some circles as the American Culinary Revolution that took hold in the 1980’s and 90’s.  
Chef Gerry was working at the epicenter, The River Café, with executive chef Charlie Palmer, Larry Forgione who left River Café to open up An American Place, and others including Anne Rozenweig who opened Arcadia. 

Claudia was excited to be working at the beginnings of the whole new American food movement too.
In 1983 Jonathan Waxmen had returned to New York from Chez Panisse to open Jams restaurant in New York. 
Not long after, she was working there. Her professional dance network helped her land a job at the exciting new food emporium.

As a struggling artist in New York City, Claudia always worked in restaurants to pay the rent. 
She told herself if she got to age 25 and not in a major company, she’d call it quits.
That time had arrived.

At Jams, the food left her awestruck.  She had never seen anything like it. She grew up in a Long Island Italian family and explains that while they ate very well – never canned or frozen food -- she had never seen such exotic food before. This was all a mystery.

Her eyes opened wide to never-before-seen ingredients such as baby vegetables and baby greens. A salad with cold duck! Never mind that everything was flown overnight from California. 
She was smitten. 
She could also see it cost a lot of money to eat in such luxury.  In 1984, a Jams’ free-range chicken and fries menu item cost $32.00, she reports with a laugh.

Claudia was a modern dancer; classically-trained.
It can be said she channels the limitless, experimental expression of the dance genre allowing her to transport inner feelings and pushing-the-limit movement themes to create the never before dreamed of works she unveils daily in the kitchen. 
The demanding, repetitive drills, training, and physical stamina she mastered in the dance studio serve her well in the athletic backstage drama of that is a restaurant kitchen. 

Having discovered her true artistic calling, Claudia decided she needed some formal training. She attended Peter Kump’s cooking school in Manhattan but there was no pastry program; so she worked and studied for a year in Paris at the Fauchon Patisserie.

Having moved from the front of the house to cooking to pastry, Claudia worked in New York City’s best restaurants including Union Square, Montrachet, Luxe and TriBeCa Grill, where she met Gerry.

Why pastry? 
It’s not because she’s a girl. 
Well, in a way it is. 
She says it started rather as an accident.  Sounds like a modern kitchen version of All About Eve. 

When she worked at the then groundbreaking Danny Meyer Union Sq. Café, executive chef Michael Romano asked if she’d like to assist the pastry chef. 
She jumped at the chance.  “I loved it!” she exclaims.

She goes on to explain how cooking professionally has always been a male-driven career. Kitchens are very regimented.  Militaristic. She says by nature, men are trained to obey coaches and are part of the team. Men are better with that, she believes.

On the other hand, pastry chefs are more or less left alone in the kitchen.  No questions. She believes women are freer thinkers and gravitate toward the independence inherent in being a pastry chef. 
Or maybe, Chef Claudia is just more artistically gifted.
And that it is her undeniable talent that led her to create sumptuous, no-holds barred desserts. 
How else do you explain sweet corn ice cream?  Or elegant and delicious, seasonal fruits, layering and contrasts. Hot and cold. Sweet and textured.
Since her debut, she has continuously created confident, opulent desserts.

What inspires such magical creations and audacious pairings?

Claudia hugs the seasons, first and foremost, parsing what’s ripe and ready.
When she worked with Chef Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern he always told her, “If it grows together, it goes together. “  She agrees.  “You are pretty much guaranteed it will go together on the plate if it grows together in the garden. It’s a creed I embrace.   It’s how I think about food,” she adds.

Chef Claudia is an accomplice to the seasons.  
If a fruit’s just been picked, juicy, sweet and aristocratic, she’ll find it a partner.  Or two.  The alchemy she performs will blend and contrast nature’s chic accessories of herbs, spices, nuts, and fruits blended to unimaginable compositions.

Using local ingredients is in fact easier, she claims.  The parameters are smaller for her desserts. 
“But I will also do ‘Indigenous.’ ” 
What does that mean? 
She says while she’ll never do berries from South America because we do berries -meaning we grow them here locally on the North Fork (her inspired grower is Oysterponds Farm); she will use bananas and coffee, for example, because while it’s imported, it’s sourced locally. 
A product that comes from Mother Nature’s garden as it were. 
Think local, as in natural; authentic.  
Her indigenous “Rule of Claudia” mandates it’s OK to use if it comes from a region naturally, not as a substitute for something that is out of season and unavailable nearby.
This is Brilliant.

Another part of her culinary inspiration is travel; and she and Gerry get away as much as they can. 
When she worked for Chef Tom Colicchio at Danny Meyer’s legendary Gramercy Tavern restaurant, she traveled a lot for international food festivals. “I was invited to many countries and saw a lot, she recalled.  “Other cultures are incredibly inspiring.”

Maybe not surprisingly for one-half of a married cooking couple, who in turn are the other half to their front of the house North Fork Table & Inn partners, Mike and Mary Mraz who are also married, Chef Claudia refers to combinations with some frequency. 
Food combinations, balance, rhythms, dreams, reality -- all are blended in Claudia’s recipe for success.

When talking about the cooking process, she admits that grinding it out, day after day can be monotonous. Some are lucky to be creative – and if chefs are viewed as rock stars and people find it entertaining, that’s not reality, she explains.

She knows she is one of the lucky ones. 
The creativity stems from making a combination of things, coming up with combinations to add personality or a twist -- always something new and exciting. 
“We have a prix fixe menu and dessert comes with the meal.  I don’t want my regular, loyal clientele to get bored.”

She also succumbs to the flexibility needed when using fresh-picked fruits.  “If the berries aren’t ripe enough, I don’t have the option.  They are not on the menu that night,” she states.
She needs to balance the creative spark with consistency. 
The staff needs to be able to excel at preparing the desserts and if she is constantly changing the recipes she says she’ll not only frustrate them but also run the risk of losing the level of quality and taste she’s developed. She won’t confuse her team.

“All recipes are doomed if the quality is not held up to the highest standard,” she states uncompromisingly.

In terms of recipe development, she always starts with what is fresh and in season. 
Then she refers to her recipe books. 
Then she dreams. 

With all she has in her repertoire, Claudia has more than a couple of signature dishes. She cites the top three most often requested desserts: 
1. The coconut tapioca with passion fruit caramel and basil syrup.
2. And her dessert for all seasons: buttermilk panna cotta with the fruits cycled in as the calendar turns: sweet, red rhubarb gives way to melt-in-your-mouth strawberries that turn the baton over to blackberries and blueberries, and then peaches or honeyed figs and… She can dial it up depending on the calendar and harvest cycle.
Tom Stevenson, Oysterponds, her berry grower down the road brings them to her by three pm, still warm– right up till the first frost. 
Like dazzling jewels, in shades of white, pink, ruby red and sapphire, the sexy berries adorn the top of her elegant dessert confections. 
3. And there’s Chef Claudia’s impossible rose meringue sandwiches that can be described as wafer thin step sisters to those CaravelÒ flying saucer-like fantasies, filled with raspberry sorbet, drizzled with locally-sourced yogurt zabaglione and served with scandalously local berries.

There is something about desserts – especially these otherworldly confections – that make us giddy, clapping our hands in anticipation and grinning uncontrollably. 
That’s just fine with Chef Claudia. In fact, she wants you to have fun.

When asked if she and Chef Gerry coordinate or balance menu items, she demurs and thinks for a minute.  They don’t plan it, but given their taste and style and devotion to the seasonal menu, the desserts and entrees are on the same page.
And linked quite romantically, no doubt.

She describes themselves as pioneers here on the North Fork. 
She admits it may not be Napa or Sonoma yet.  But she’s convinced someday it will be a food mecca.  
The area has already become a magnet for innovators like she and Gerry who want the very best quality ingredients steps away from their door. 

Upon establishing the restaurant, the couple had to develop their growers. She describes the process of building their food network as “not easy.”
To say the least.

The growers and fishermen were not used to providing product on a regular basis to a single source.
There were no business terms. They wanted cash. At the same time, it was difficult to get a bill or invoice from the growers.  It was a very complex arrangement, she sighs.
However, the couple persevered, building relationships that proved there was a mutually beneficial foundation. 

The emerging and reinvigorated local food community is passionate; driven to establish an infrastructure that will yield to a middle ground they create – looking back to a quality, slower way of life to truly enjoy the unmatched flavors of fresh, local foods; with the reality of providing food that adheres to government regulations, distribution costs and the scrutiny of unforgiving master chefs.  “We are all at the beginning together.”

Chef Claudia and Gerry have allowed passion and experience to guide them. “There is a certain, lovely camaraderie here,” she says. “We are very proud of the people that grow for us.”
Further, she adds,  “It’s a great way to live.”
The North Fork is undoubtedly a food and nature lover’s paradise. 
The combination of vineyards, B&B’s and restaurants are a food destination unmatched on the east coast. 

Finally, she does not believe the popularity in homegrown food is a trend. 
Not for a second.  “Oh Nooo.  Fast food was a trend!” she says firmly.
“People are beginning to understand eating good food does affect your life, your family.  How you bring them together on a daily basis says a lot to your children. Mealtime is very important.  We need to slow it down and enjoy that time together,” she contemplates.

She thinks we won’t go back to her grandmother’s approach, but neither can we continue the way it’s been so there will be that middle ground.  “Maybe McDonald’s will serve grass fed beef?” she suggests not altogether irreverently.

At the same time, because America is a melting pot, the food influences from different immigrant groups offer ever-more unlimited cooking possibilities. 
“Look how Mexican culture is one of the most favorite in the US today?” she points out.    “We’re going to keep discovering new cuisines meld into our own! “ Chef Claudia says exuberantly.

Chef Gerry is an impatient chef.  He wants the best of everything. He’s uncompromising.  It can’t come together soon enough. Not for the community of farmers or vintners. Not when he is seeking to establish an artisanal hog grower nearby.

Nevertheless, the hands on the clock hold on to each other, poised, as he determinedly cooks and coaxes the food he adores onto the plate.  When Chef Gerry is creating his culinary masterpieces, there is nothing else. 

For a chef this focused, is there any doubt that he always knew he wanted to be a chef?
In fact there was never anything else.

He is the youngest of seven children in a family of much older siblings.  His mother always worked – at the telephone company, in department stores.  Plus the family had a vegetable garden she tended. 
Gerry said he’d give her a hand in the garden where they grew zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and eggplants. He also helped her with the cooking, especially on the holidays. 
His parents came from the same ethnic Brooklyn neighborhood of Bayridge.  His mother learned to cook from her Italian neighbors; Good Housekeeping magazines, tearing out recipes; and old cookbooks. 
She was always preparing something, he remembered.  She prepared food for the next day.  After dinner.
Don’t get him started about people saying they don’t have time to cook at home!

His family moved to what was then “the better life” in the suburbs of Long Island the year before Gerry was born, moving to Stony Brook where he was raised.
One of his favorite memories of the open farm area then was that his family frequented the local farm stands in Rocky Point and Wading River, known for their strawberries, peaches, corn, apples, pears and melons.  Later he and his friends worked at the farm, harvesting.

His first restaurant job was in junior high school as a dishwasher. That’s all it took.  Young Gerry wholeheartedly loved the kitchen environment and by the age of 15 he was already cooking.

His first real restaurant job on the line at the family-owned Country House in Stony Brook left a lifelong impression. 
He remembers the father had been the maitre d' at the legendary Stork Club in Manhattan.  All his sons had been cooks there, too.
Eventually, the father moved the entire family to Long Island to work in their new family-owned restaurant. 
Gerry remembers they had great cars and always had a lot of money in their pockets.
The restaurant in the 70’s and early 80’s was a fun place to be. He says he was fascinated; always learning. 
Specifically, he was taught how to pound out a leg of veal, make Veal Oscar with béarnaise sauce, and how to make hollandaise sauce. 
He also remembers working hard. Very hard.

Mainly his memories of The Country House were that it was a sophisticated restaurant with a New York City polish. 

He laughed when he realized that’s kind of what he’s doing now.
“I worked in New York City for 25 years and now I’m in Southold bringing a bit of that sophisticated New York dining experience to the North Fork….”

Gerry graduated from the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York, successfully completing the school’s 21-month program. 
Significantly, there were two people there who played defining roles in his developing career.
Chef Leon Dennon, a Belgian instructor, was responsible for helping Gerry to secure his career-making externship with Chef Charlie Palmer at the famous River Café in Brooklyn. 
Ultimately, it was Gerry’s father, a New York City fireman in marine company #1 who, as part of his unit, patrolled the river ways of the city from the World Trade Center on the Hudson, up past the tennis bracelet of bridges that span the East River. 
His father is the one who suggested Gerry investigate two restaurant prospects to consider for his externship: The swanky Sign of the Dove -- but especially the River Café. 
Gerry recalled how the restaurant impressed his father and fellow firefighters as sailed passed the gleaming restaurant located under the Brooklyn Bridge; perfectly positioned to take advantage of the unstaged sorcery and romantic backdrop of the world’s most glittering skyline just across the river. 
In turn, Gerry told Chef Leon about his wish to work at The River Cafe.
As it turned out, Chef Leon had been a benefactor to Chef Charlie Palmer, owner of the River Café, and so he was happy to make the call on Gerry’s behalf.

According to Chef Gerry, the other positive role model happened as a result of a lucky coincidence that landed French Chef Roland Henin as instructor when the regular CIA teacher was taken ill. 
For seven days Chef Roland taught an intensive class on how to make consommé, terrine and sauces.
Gerry recalls Chef Roland was at turns brilliant, strict, great. 
He says, “It was a mind-blowing experience.” 
There was something about Chef Roland’s comportment and depth of knowledge that other chefs didn’t have. 
Chef Gerry says there are some things you can’t really appreciate until afterwards, after you generate your own experiences.
Roland imbued Gerry with the pride of the culinary profession that has stayed with him all through his career. 
Only years after graduation did Gerry discover that Chef Roland was very instrumental in teaching Chef Thomas Keller.  Keller acknowledges so in his first cookbook.

After graduation Gerry was asked by executive chef Charlie Palmer to return to work full time at The River Café.

Working for Chef Charlie Palmer, it seemed Gerry’s eyes were seeing food for the first time.  There were miniature vegetables, fresh morels from the Pacific Northwest, ramps, and fiddlehead ferns.
The fact that Chef Charlie had grown up on a farm fueled his adherence to a seasonally based menu.
In a restaurant at that time, it was all pretty new, says Gerry.  Likewise the darling of purveyors, D’Artagnan, was new then too.  The company was new in the United States, but in fact stemmed from a well-respected heritage of French food purveying, providing the chefs with freshly killed game birds and organic foie gras.  Up until then, most things that passed as food had been pre-packaged, Gerry notes.   “So this was big news.”

“No one was going to farms then,” Chef Gerry is quick to add. “There was always the broker between the grower and the restaurant.”
Yes, there were some New York state farms starting to ship greens.
There were tadpole-sized, fill-in trips to the fish market on Fulton Street. 
And some also infrequent visits to what was then a real meat packing district over on the west side of Manhattan that is now home to designers and boutiques: both fashion and hotel.

Overwhelmingly, though, the only way business was conducted was over the telephone.  The one with bologna-curled umbilical cord tethered to the desk or mounted on the wall…

There was no relationship with the growers, no contact with the fisherman or dairyman or herders or any of the artisans who the chefs would soon help to develop. 

Today, he says he feels compromised if he uses the telephone to order the food for his restaurant. 
He is compelled to find the best, local ingredients. 
And nurture the food artisan or create them if they don’t exist, as he did recently when he worked to establish iberico Pigs in Mattituck, Long Island. 
That food journey took Chef Gerry from Spain and Hungary to a slaughtering and butchering class with an Austrian Mangalitsa wooly pig master butcher in New Jersey and back to Long Island. 

In 1988, when Chef Charlie opened Aureole restaurant, there was really no doubt Gerry would accompany him to his new restaurant.
Gerry says he had been developing and collaborating menus with Chef Charlie when he asked him to take on the full responsibility as the opening pastry chef for Aureole.
That position impacted his career tremendously, he states.
Ever the innovator, Chef Gerry created a new wave of desserts.

What was revolutionary was he worked on plating desserts.
It seems impossible to fathom but before this, desserts and pastries were, by and large, cut from a bigger cake or pie or mouse or ice cream mold. 
Think of those dome-shrouded desserts at the diners. Just better. 
“There were a lot of tortes cut in the 80s,” he recalled.

Radically, Chef Gerry took a cook’s approach to pastry. 
He established a pastry station.
Further, he formulated a hot dessert category that would extend the sole entry on most restaurants’ menu: that wonderful but traditional soufflé.

Basically Chef Gerry created a cook’s station for Pastry.
The desserts became an individual item to order. 
“A cobbler in a dish that we individually baked to order had essentially never been done before,” he explains.

From his vaulted vantage point now, Chef Gerry says he didn’t start getting into the farm movement until he moved to Sam Francisco to help open Aqua restaurant in 1990.
“There were more small farms and farmers market at that time out there that were light years ahead of New York,” he says.
Somewhat ruefully he acknowledges that if in 1989 Union Square Greenmarket in NYC was there and open, he wasn’t aware of it and wasn’t going to it! 

Oftentimes, when you move out of your element, you see things in a new way he observes.

After several years, he moved back to New York.  He worked in the Hamptons for five years after TriBeCa Grill, where he and Claudia met 
This was in between Aureole and before Park Avenue Café.
When he worked at the East Hampton Point -- a 400-seat restaurant for Jerry DellaFemina and Drew Neirpont -- Gerry says he liked being near the water, loved being in his home of Long Island, but something was missing. 

The couple wanted to buy a home on Long Island but didn’t know exactly where.  They took their time exploring the magic of Long Island’s landscape:  it’s waterways that jab or poke the land here and there, the wide open farmland, the colonial shingled houses and quaint towns, the movie-set mansions from every century since it was settled in the 1600s. 

He and Claudia visited on a number of day trips to the area, taking the Andrew Wyeth-inducing ferries across the South Fork to Shelter Island and on to the North Fork.  
It was soon clear. 
Here in the North Fork, they could have it all: enjoy the water and more agriculture and the vineyards and the community’s active commitment to preserve it.

“My godmother had a place in Jamesport and we had bungalows on Nassau Point. So I always liked the area of the North Fork.  We had a boat house and enjoyed the beach-combing in Stony Point too.”

The good news was Gerry and Claudia found a house.  The “bad news” was they recognized they couldn’t afford the city and the country house.

Together, they still had Amuse restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.  But now they had to ask, “What will we do?” 
He was ready to make the change.  Claudia said she was ready to get out of city.
Was it Destiny? Vision?
“We knew it was destiny,” said Chef Gerry. 

The couple catered their own wedding at the Wolford Wolf Vineyard in Bridgehampton.  “Everyone loved it.”  
It was late June 2001. They served very simple striped bass, farm fresh salad, peas, and fava beans.
Not unlike what they do for their clientele today, they developed the menu based on the time of year. “We cooked with the farms,” he says.
Not surprisingly, all the guests agreed the wedding dinner created a feeling of casual elegance inspired by the season. 

Claudia and Gerry formulated their restaurant style based on that unsolicited, genuine positive feedback. 
It would be casual elegance, seasonally inspired.
And don’t forget Love.

Chefs Gerry and Claudia opened North Fork Table & Inn’s 110-seat restaurant in 2005 to rave reviews.
It’s been wowing customers and fans ever since.
In fact, the North Fork Table & Inn has become a food-lover’s destination. 
Today, he is dedicated to fulfilling the North Fork’s potential as a food lover’s paradise.  They opened the restaurant here because he believes it offers the best of the culinary world’s future. 
And lest we forget, this culinary couple hasn’t missed a beat in the evolving world of good, fresh, delicious food.