CittaNuova’s James Gee wasn’t always at the helm of one of the best restaurants in the Hamptons. In fact, one wouldn’t be surprised if a single night had made Gee decide to walk away before he ever became Executive Chef at the Italian hotspot in East Hampton.
“Opening day at one of my restaurants, party of 175 for the owners and best friends,” he recalls. “I had no gas pressure on the hot line, meaning if I turned on the fryer, the ovens would shut off, or if I turned on the broiler, the stoves wouldn’t light. I was cooking on a brand new line, with a brand new staff, with a brand new job, and NO GAS! [expand]
“I had service and repair guys lying on the floor while we sautéed one dish, then turned off the stove to light the fryer to make fried calamari, then turned that off to light the grill to cook the steaks, burning the repairs guys with grease splatter the whole time, cussing and swearing cause they couldn’t figure out the problem. Every important person to impress in the dining room and all eyes on me and my crew, it was not fun.”
Gee survived, and thrived. And now he’s up for some big-time fun at the culinary event of the summer when he joins other top chefs from the East End at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks on Saturday, July 16, in Bridgehampton.
What Are You Most Looking Forward to at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks… Seeing what the other chefs are going to do. I like to see who has the most creative, the best executed dish, the most out-there dish, etc.
Your Favorite Dish at Your Restaurant/What Makes It Special to You… Our gnocchi—I’ve perfected the technique, and it isn’t how grandma used to do it.
Food That Defines Summer on Long Island… Lobster. Corn. Potatoes.
If You Had Two Forks in Your Hand Right Now, What Would You Like to Stick Them In… My eye. Seriously, I’m thinking about a pasta I made for today’sspecial—local skate wing with Calabrian Chiles, roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, onions, white parsley and olive oil.
Your Favorite Local Ingredients… Any of the seafood, right off the shore—clams, oysters, bay scallops, striped bass, fluke, skate, porgies…
What Is Your Guilty Food Pleasure… Roasted pork tacos with soft corn tortillas, salsa verde and cilantro.
If You Didn’t Work in the World of Food, You’d Be… A guitar player in a rock ’n’ roll band or a motorcycle racer.
The Moment You Knew Food Was Your Calling… When Jack Tripper lived with two girls.
A Word That Defines How You Feel About Food… Sustenance.
Where Do You Find Inspiration for a New Dish… At markets (good ones, not Waldbaum’s) or by traveling.
People’s Biggest Misconception About Pairing Wine and Food… What happened to beer? Really, if it grows together, then it goes together. Simple as that.
What’s Great About Being Part of the Cuisine Culture on the East End… Seeing two different types of clientele throughout the year, and making both of them happy.