Chef Gerry Hayden of North Fork Table is Honored

Chefs Hayden and Vongerichten at Dan’s TOTF
Chefs Hayden and Vongerichten at Dan’s TOTF

At the second annual Dan’s Papers Taste of Two Forks on Saturday, Chef Gerry Hayden received the inaugural Two Forks Outstanding Achievement Award. Hayden was honored for his dedication to the local community and commitment to local produce and ingredients.

Hayden’s support of East End agriculture and viticulture has been an inspiration to the local food movement. His approach to provisioning his restaurant, The North Fork Table  and Inn in Southold, has been pivotal in the North Fork’s growing reputation as a major center of food culture. As it says on their printed menu—“The North Fork Table supports the local agricultural and fishing communities and promotes awareness of all the pristine bounty the East End has to offer.” Dishes feature greens and vegetables from K. K. Haspel’s farm just a stone’s throw from the restaurant. Other “locals” on the menu include Catapano goat cheese, Peconic Bay fluke, sea bass and clams, Atlantic sea scallops as well as a long list of East End wines.

The North Fork Table & Inn is the Zagat rated #1 Restaurant on Long Island. Hayden and his wife and pastry chef, Claudia Fleming, are the proud co-owners of this highly respected foodie magnet. Hayden and Fleming are both Long Island natives. How did Hayden get to this moment in his life? Even before Hayden assumed the role of executive chef at North Fork Table & Inn, he had a decorated career.

Hayden recalls one of his first memories of cooking “…I was about six.  My mother handed me a lump of dough to keep me quiet, and the next thing she knew I had rolled out three piecrusts, crimped edges and all.  I guess I had watched her enough times to just do it.  It was the process of cooking that fascinated me—taking raw ingredients and making something memorable and flavorful from them.”

In his hometown of Setauket, New York, Hayden had his first experience working in a kitchen while in high school. This was when he realized that attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park was the right choice for him. During his schooling at the CIA, Hayden reached out to The River Cafe for an externship. Hayden remembers, “I pursued Charlie Palmer relentlessly and before I knew it I was cooking there full time.  It was a fantastic place to learn the realities of a working kitchen.”

Palmer became a mentor to Hayden. In 1988 when Palmer opened Aureole, he contacted Hayden to be his sous chef and to oversee the pastry kitchen. Hayden worked at Aureole for two years until opening Drew Nieporent’s TriBeCa Grill in 1990. Hayden uprooted himself from the East Coast and moved to San Francisco to open the critically acclaimed Aqua. During his stint on the West Coast, Nieporent invited Hayden back to New York to head up the new Hamptons restaurant, East Hampton Point. While working there Hayden earned three stars from Newsday and Zagat awarded him the highest newcomer rating.

In 1996 Hayden switched restaurants yet again, moving on to the Marguery Grill, where he was hired as Executive Chef. The acclaimed American restaurant earned Hayden the prestigious “Best New Restaurant” award from Esquire magazine. While searching for a new Executive Chef for Aureole in 1999, Palmer sought out Hayden again. Hayden’s culinary style continued to impress, with its refined lines and clean, layered flavors.

Jumping into new territory, in 2002 Hayden left Aureole and set his sights on owning his own restaurant. In his first experience in ownership, Hayden opened Amuse in New York. That brings us to the present when Hayden’s wife Claudia Fleming urged him to move to the North Fork of Long Island to open the North Fork Table & Inn. Hayden and Fleming’s seasoned careers and approach to local sourcing are what make the North Fork Table & Inn the #1 Restaurant on Long Island.

Hayden’s dream all goes back to the kitchen on Thanksgiving, and punching the edges of his first piecrust. Thanks, mom!

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