Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Countdown: Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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Dan’s Taste of Two Forks (TOTF), which benefits local food pantries through the Have a Heart Community Trust, debuted last July. I was there so I can tell you that having dozens of the top East End chefs and winemakers under the same, big tent giving away samples is an amazing experience. Over 1,800 people would heartily agree with me. There were celebrities and goody bags all over Sayre Park in Bridgehampton that glorious Saturday night.

In its second year, Dan’s Taste of Two Forks is set to be even bigger and just as “tasty.” This year it will have authentic French flair courtesy of its host, internationally acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and its 2012 Ambassador of “TASTE” Nicole Miller. Born in Alsace and educated in France’s top kitchens, Vongerichten, has been a frequent Hamptons visitor for many years. He is known worldwide for his culinary and business prowess, and owns and operates three- and four-star restaurants in the United States (Jean Georges, The Mark Restaurant, Spice Market, Mercer Kitchen, Perry St. and JoJo), France (Market restaurant), Bahamas (Café Martinique, DUNE), Bora Bora (Lagoon) and Shanghai (Jean Georges Shanghai). He is the author of five acclaimed cookbooks, two of which were written with Mark Bittman.

Miller is best known as an apparel designer, her interest in design took her to Paris at a young age. There she became well acquainted with the beauties and intricacies of French cuisine. Miller serves as this season’s Food Critic for Dan’s Daily, a sister publication of Dan’s Papers.

July 14 is Bastille Day! There are so many reasons to celebrate this day and the bounty of the East End. I fired off some questions to Vongerichten and he graciously responded, lending a personal touch to this much-anticipated celebration of local food culture.

Q: Is there any aspect of the East End of Long Island that particularly reminds you of France?

A: The East End of Long Island and the South of France are both seaside communities where people like to take weekend vacations, so there is a definite similarity there that I like.

Q: What are your thoughts regarding East End wines?

A: I know that there is an abundance of wineries out east and I respect the fact that most are small family owned businesses and that the local community all support them. Residents and visitors go to the wineries and restaurants stock their wine cellars with local varieties.

Q: Any personal favorites?

A: Some standouts include Martha Clara and Pellegrini on the North Fork and Michael Lynne of Bedell Cellars.

Q: Did you ever imagine that chefs in America would be renowned as the celebrities they are today?

A: I never thought that chefs would have celebrity status as they do today.

Q: Do you feel responsible to help people make better eating choices?

A: I believe it is important to educate people, especially children, on the importance of healthy eating choices. My cooking reflects my passion towards offering the freshest organic and local ingredients possible.

Q: Would you encourage your daughter to become a chef?

A: The life of a chef is not easy. It is hard work and requires a lot of dedication and time, however I believe in allowing my children to choose whatever path in life pleases them and will stand behind them to guide and teach them whatever I can.

Q: What are some of your favorite ingredients that are produced on the East End of Long Island?

A: The East End of Long Island is known for great, fresh seafood and I think that the chefs there use that to their advantage on their menus. The mussels and clams are exceptional. Peaches, broccoli, cabbage, and corn are amongst some of the other amazing produce that really shine on the East End.

Q: Is there a crop that you would suggest the East End try to produce—that we do not already produce in abundance?

A: I’m not too sure what more could be done! The summer and fall both produce an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables.

Speaking of all things local, for the inaugural Two Forks Outstanding Achievement Award, Chef Gerry Hayden of North Fork Table & Inn will be honored for his dedication to the local community and commitment to native Long Island produce and ingredients. Hayden has had a decorated career, having run such celebrated Manhattan eateries as Aureole and Amuse before opening North Fork Table & Inn in 2006. For the last two years the chef, passionate about eating and sourcing locally, has been nominated for the James Beard award for Best ChefNortheast. He owns North Fork Table & Inn with his wife, Claudia Fleming.

If you’re looking forward to seeing Vongerichten, Miller, Hayden and many others and to tasting the myriad delights of the East End—buy your tickets to Dan’s Taste of Two Forks today! Last year’s event sold out in advance. You can purchase your TOTF tickets and find much more information at www.tasteoftwoforks.com.

This year’s TOTF sponsors include: PRESENTING SPONSOR Farrell Building Company, Platinum Sponsors Citarella, LINCOLN, TOWN, Amstel, Loire Valley Wines, Gold Sponsors: Hampton Jitney/Ambassador, Southampton Publick House, SMART Water, Dutch Petals, Silver Sponsors: Long Island Wine Council, Tito Vodka, Plum TV