A little over a month ago, but the first few weeks consisted mostly of back office work and executing necessary adjustments with our menu and protocol due to COVID. Luckily, we’ve been able to bring the white table experience to guests in their hotel rooms.
What is your favorite part about working at Baron’s Cove and being a part of Cape Resorts?
The people. We have a diverse group of both young and seasoned professionals. Being at the forefront of changes in hospitality, and having a lot of different minds with different viewpoints to bounce ideas off — it’s exciting.
You’ve been a part of the Cape Resorts family before. Tell us more about that.
I worked for The Ebbitt Room and Beach Plum Farm in Cape May. It was exciting to work in two very different settings — going from fine dining to a casual, farm-fresh kitchen. Both restaurants had unique, focused styles involving the same farm products. The experience helped my knowledge of ingredients, as well as my respect for our farmers who produce the food.
How old were you when you discovered your love for cooking?
I was always cooking with my grandmother and my mother — both are tremendous cooks. I have it instilled in me to always ask people if they’re hungry or thirsty and to take care of them.
You left the restaurant business for some time and worked in finance. What pulled you back in?
I grew up in restaurants - from an oyster bar/seafood shack to a scratchmade southern kitchen, plus bartending, serving, and ending with front-of-house management. But then I felt like I needed a change. I went to Coastal Carolina University for finance.
So how was the finance world?
Turns out that after a few years of working and trying to find my way, I had a calling back to the kitchen. My passion is for the kitchen. From the quiet hum of fans and early morning prep time, to a loud Saturday night with a blaring ticket machine – it’s my place.
You spent some time in Washington D.C.? How did that go?
It was great. I was the Executive Chef at an Italian restaurant, Alta Strada, for about two-and-a-half years. I worked under the owner Michael Schlow and he was incredible. Just a great experience. We made it into the Washington Post’s Fall Dining Guide for the top restaurants in D.C.
DC is quite the change of pace compared to the village of Sag Harbor.
Sure, but I grew up in Philadelphia and left because I wanted to get away from the big city. I was in South Carolina for college and down the Jersey Shore as well. While I was in D.C., I realized I wanted to get back to that great, local feeling I had for so long. I wanted to put faces to names and enjoy that community feeling, which we have at Baron’s Cove.
Cape Resorts takes pride in its farm-fresh ingredients. Can you tell us about some of your suppliers?
That’s one of the best things about the restaurants at Cape Resorts — everything is fresh, and we rotate with the seasons to ensure that. Haskell’s Seafood and Braun Seafood Co. are two companies we love working with. There are also a lot of dairy farms, cheese makers and produce proprietors we use.
What are some of your favorites on the Baron’s Cove menu?
We make broiled oysters, which we get in fresh every day. We also pull inspiration from a classic Roman dish for our fried artichokes. Our scallops are another favorite — the quality up here is amazing. A lot of what we put on our menu relies on the quality of the products and the season, and we stay true to that all year.
We know it’s a very different skill, but did you ever attempt baking seriously?
I studied pastry-making while in D.C. because of operational needs. And, rather than the restaurant hiring someone, I assumed that role as well. My girlfriend is a pastry chef, so I run a lot of things by her at home or I’ll have her come in to try some things. They are different when it comes to the artistry of cooking and science behind baking, but both are incredibly important to the dining experience. I don’t ever want dessert to be considered an afterthought.
We’ve all hit a speed bump or two through life. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with in your career?
Taking over a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic hasn’t been ideal. Guidelines and regulations change daily, and we have to adapt on the fly. But it’s also been a blessing — we have the ability to look at everything with more focus and make sure we are doing our absolute best.
If you could cook for four special people (dead or alive) who would they be? And where?
On the beach, without a doubt. I’d love to have my grandmother, who lives in a nursing home. Having her enjoy a meal with me would be wonderful. Anthony Bourdain, who is like the patron saint of chefs — he’s been a huge influence for a lot of my career. My general manager Mario Arakelian — he’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever known. Finally, with everything going on in the world, a peaceful influence like Nelson Mandela would be amazing — I’d love to pick his brain.
What would be your last meal to enjoy in the world and what would you wash it down with?
It’s funny, I was just talking about my Death Row meal the other day. I’d say fried chicken and a bottle of 1992 Barolo, a great Italian red wine.
Any other restaurants in the Hamptons you’d like to try?
There is a place called Lulu Kitchen and Bar — they have an open wood-fired kitchen and super-authentic food. It’s more primal, with French inspirations and I can’t wait to try it out. Then there is a place called Corner Bar, which looks like a good spot after a rough shift for a beer and cheeseburger at 11:30 at night.
What are you most excited for this summer?
Making Sag Harbor my home and getting comfortable at Baron’s Cove. In this industry, it takes a village and we want to be a well-oiled machine. Customers choose us to be their home away from home and it’s important we win over locals and create regulars with a product we’re proud of. ✯