Catching Up with Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Honoree Anna Pump

Anna Pump on the cover of her book "Summer on a Plate."
Anna Pump on the cover of her book "Summer on a Plate."

Owner of Loaves & Fishes Gourmet Take-Out, innovative baker and cook, cookbook author and innkeeper Anna Pump had a big birthday in April—but it hasn’t slowed her down a bit. When called to set up an interview, the only time she could meet was at 4 p.m. that very day—“at the shop in Sagaponack, of course.” The week of July 4th was not an option—it’s still Loaves & Fishes’ busiest.

Pump’s Loaves & Fishes has been quietly serving the gourmet take-out and catering needs of East End foodies since 1980. Pump and her daughter Sybille van Kempen, with the support of Pump’s late husband Detlef, added the Bridgehampton Inn to their business holdings in 1994. The six-room establishment quickly became a destination hotel. Pump detailed the Inn’s opening and its day-to-day workings in Country Weekend Entertaining, which was published by Doubleday in 1999.

Sybille and her husband Gerrit opened the popular kitchenalia emporium, Loaves & Fishes Cookshop in Bridgehampton’s downtown in 2003.

Recently Pump passed the reins of running the iconic Bridgehampton Inn over to her daughter. Much like her mother, van Kempen continues to push the envelope of all that the Inn can be by (just last month) opening a full restaurant on its first floor. Realized by Chef de Cuisine Arie Pavlou the wide-ranging menu changes weekly to take full advantage of local, seasonal ingredients. The Inn is also adding another six guest rooms in the fall.

Pump is to be honored with the 2014 Two Forks Outstanding Achievement Award at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks event this Saturday in Bridgehampton. Previous honorees include North Fork Table & Inn Chef/Owner Gerry Hayden and Long Island Wine Country. When asked how it feels to be this year’s honoree at the largest food event on the East End, Pump replied, “Well, I’m thrilled! I’m very much honored to say the least!” She also said that she’s looking forward to seeing all the great East End chefs, especially those from the North Fork she’s not yet met.

Pump avers that she herself is not a chef, but “someone who loves to cook.” She says, “I always think of new things to do. Just this week something new with fluke—lemon juice and pine nuts.”

Rumors had been circulating recently that Pump was planning to release a 30th anniversary edition of her original The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook in 2015. In fact, she has begun work on a fifth cookbook that she promises will include about one-third of her established recipes and about two-thirds new recipes. The new recipes are largely based on Asian influences that came to Pump by way of her grandsons’ travels in China and Vietnam. She says that this cookbook will take “at least two years” to write, it will be her first since her popular Summer on a Plate was released in 2008.

Pump did not attend cooking school. Like many young ladies of her generation, she attended finishing school. Later, however, she studied under James Beard, Anna Maria Huste and Maurice Moore-Betty. Pump also famously mentored “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten when Garten’s shop was in Westhampton.

Pump’s grandson Stefan is now serving as manager of Loaves and Fishes, but Pump can be found there just about every day that it’s open, from Holy Thursday to December 31. She takes a winter respite in Naples, Florida. Pump rises early and walks two to three miles a day, and also enjoys bicycling to the beaches.

Pump’s journey to the South Fork began in Tarp, Germany. Anna Tuitjer was raised on a farm in an area near the Danish border that, much like Bridgehampton, was a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. There she met and married Detlef Pump. Detlef, Anna and their two children, Harm and Sybille, emigrated to the United States in 1960, settling in Frenchtown, NJ, near Detlef’s brother. Pump first visited the East End in the 1970s. She and her husband bought and restored an 18th century house in Noyac in 1978 and in 1980 took over the Loaves & Fishes shop in Sagaponack.

There are many legends surrounding Loaves & Fishes Gourmet Take-Out—a $100 per pound lobster salad and a refusal to computerize operations chief among them. Pump says, “Google keeps calling us, little do they know I want people to be out there communicating with people from the kitchen.” At Loaves & Fishes, Pump points out, “We cook and bake [from scratch] all day long. Always fresh—I’m a destination.”

While Pump has accomplished many things in her career, when asked what she’s most proud of, she immediately responds, “Doing Loaves & Fishes. I’m very fond of my customers and they’re very loyal.”

Pump notes that she has watched generations of her young customers grow up to visit with their own children.

She added, with regard to foodie culture in general, “There’s a generation coming up who’s actually cooking. Unfortunately there was a time when no one was in the kitchen.”

Pump is a longtime supporter of the Bridgehampton Historical Society (now the Bridgehampton Museum) and quite a number of other local causes. Pump’s love of place is evident in many ways, not least of which is her effort to gain citizenship for her largely Ecuadorian kitchen staff. Loaves and Fishes sponsors their green cards and then helps them through the process to citizenship. As she says, “They’re almost family.”

When asked to comment on her position as the head of a food dynasty, Pump says, “It has all come by evolving. I just love good food.” In addition to working with her daughter, son-in-law and grandsons, Pump now has her granddaughter Karina baking breads at Loaves & Fishes on her summer break from college. Meanwhile, Pump’s son Harm and his wife, Nancy,  create Loaves & Fishes line of jams, apple butter and pickles. After retiring from a career as a helicopter pilot, Harm bought a farm in New Jersey.

When asked if she would ever retire, Pump replied, “My daughter tells a joke about that. We renew our lease for the Loaves & Fishes building every three years. Sybille says, ‘Mom retires every three years.’ No. One needs to keep going!”

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