Top chefs are getting down and dirty in the Hamptons, digging up their gardens to grow fresh veggies to serve at their restaurants.
Drew Hiatt, executive chef of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, says he works four to six hours a day in the restaurant’s one-acre garden, which is run by his wife, Mary Joy, before his regular day at the restaurant begins.
Last summer, Hiatt said, they produced around $30,000 worth of produce.
“We didn’t have to buy any tomatoes last summer,” said Hiatt, who also grows sugar snap and English peas, various kinds of lettuce, berries, herbs, rhubarb, string beans, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, gherkins, eggplants, zuchinni and summer squash.
The vegetables are generally grown in 60-foot raised beds that are three feet wide.
“We can’t cover everything with what we grow, but we use it all. It’s one of the main reasons we stay here,” Hiatt says.
The garden is organic, which in part means employing natural methods, like using ladybugs, to stave off bug infestations. Bird feeders, bright-colored flowers and wind chimes can also help keep birds and animals out of your garden, Hiatt said. But nothing, he says, can keep the deer away. Not even fences.
“Deer just ate half of my English peas last week,” Hiatt says. “We can’t do a lot about it. Fences don’t stop them. I look at it as the cycle of life. They eat and then they leave. You can’t stop them a whole lot. You plant food. Animals eat it. People eat it.”
Vongerichten, the chef proprietor at Topping Rose House, says he tries to spend a few days a month in the Hamptons. One of the first things he does when he arrives is to “take a basket and pick some vegetables” from the restaurant’s garden.
“When I go to Topping Rose, I take a basket and dig and eat out of the ground whatever is available. I eat it raw. Crudités with a little green hummus dip,” Vongerichten told Side Dish.
“Having your own garden is a dream,” Vongerichten added. “Young chefs used to only want to come to the city to learn about technique and different styles. Now they want to be in the country and learn how food grows. It’s very exciting to cook in the country now. It’s the way I grew up in France.”
Hiatt’s advice for amateur farmers is to begin early. “Buy growing kits to start your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants indoors, in winter,” he said.
And always farm organically.
“Be careful when you buy your seeds to make sure they are not genetically modified,” he said.
Chef Joe Realmuto, who helms the legendary Nick & Toni’s, also overseas a one-acre farm that is run on a day-to-day basis by a local farmer. As executive chef and co-owner of the Honest Man restaurant group, Realmuto oversees four other East End restaurants in addition to Nick & Toni’s: Rowdy Hall, Coche Comedor, Townline BBQ and La Fondita. The garden is adjacent to Nick & Toni’s and most of the produce goes there, with overflow funneled to other restaurants.
Realmuto has been in the Hamptons for 26 years, and the garden was a major reason he stayed that first year. Realmuto also says he started growing different types of cilantro and peppers for his Mexican restaurants.
“It was super important to me,” he said. “It’s something you just don’t have in the city.”
The Hamptons, Realmuto says, is known for its corn and potatoes, which are “spectacular.” Tomatoes are also easy to grow and, he says, “Nothing tastes better than a freshly picked tomato.” Fresh herbs snipped from the garden also liven up every dish.
Realmuto said he starts his day in the garden — talking with the farmer who works for him, not gardening himself. He also has interns from the local farms working for him.
Vongerichten will be hosting a dinner on June 29 at Topping Rose in honor of food writer Florence Fabricant.
A portion of the funds raised will go to Guild Hall, a cultural nonprofit in East Hampton.
Chefs from top East End restaurants will be cooking — with produce from their gardens. They include Hiatt and Amanda Wallace of Topping Rose House, Nick & Toni’s Realmuto, Terrance Brennan of Blu Mar, Dominic Rice of Carissa, Carissa Waechter of Carissa’s The Bakery, Colin Ambrose of Estia’s Little Kitchen, Jeremy Blutstein of Showfish at Gurney’s Star Island, Jason Weiner and Eric Lemonides of L&W Market and Almond, and Scott Kampf of Union Cantina.
Source: Read Full Article