Dining Features

Hamptons Epicure: Get Your Custom Spoons, Man

Last holiday season I was out and about shopping for unique holiday gifts and I came across a true Montauk original.

Longtime resident Ted Hubbard has been handcrafting spoons from local hardwoods such as Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, Hawthorne and Cherry for more than 20 years.

It’s crucial that the wood is green in order for him to hand tool it. Most of the wood Hubbard works with is 40 to 50 years old, and a good deal of it has been supplied by another Montauker, landscaper Gregory Donohue.

Hubbard grew up in Bayshore and spent summers in Montauk. He was “really into Native American crafts” from a young age and is inspired by nature.

I met Hubbard at the annual Friends Bazaar at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. The set-up was simple and irresistible: an artisan, a table full of his wares, a story for the asking.

Hubbard made his first spoon while living with roommates in West Virginia in 1993. They needed a spoon, he carved one from a piece of walnut. It was a hit.

After that he studied with master Swedish carver Wille Sundquist and perfected his art. Early on Hubbard used the coal method to form his spoons, much as Native Americans did in order to carve out logs to form canoes long ago. Burn the wood that you wish to remove with a coal, blow on it, scrape it off, repeat. Now Hubbard begins with a hatchet, follows up with a carving knife and completes the carving with a hook knife. Any way you slice it, this is not a fast process. It takes about half an hour to rough a spoon out and then two to three hours to finish it. During the carving Hubbard has plenty of time to follow the natural shape of the wood and to be inspired by it. Every spoon is one-of-a-kind but the curve of every one of the spoons’ bowls follows the wood grain for strength.

While I was standing in line to meet Hubbard, the couple ahead of me asked about a particular spoon that had a rounded opening at one end. It was a particularly fine-looking spoon and the hole allowed it to be hung. Hubbard explained to them that while carving this spoon he discovered a knot in the wood right there and that is how it came to have a neatly carved hole. Of course they bought that spoon and several others. I bought two spoons to give as gifts. I don’t think that “my dream spoon” has been “born” yet. I look forward to checking out Hubbard’s selection again soon. Hubbard and I are both partial to ladles, but he’s also quite fond of his smaller Swedish eating spoons or “yogurt spoons.”

Ted Hubbard and his spoons
Ted Hubbard and his spoons, Photo: S. Dermont

Hubbard also carves a small number of serving bowls. He explained that though he knows several other spoonmakers in this country, you won’t find any on the web because they can’t possibly keep up with demand.

If you’d like to explore Hubbard’s current selection of one-of-a-kind spoons, you can call him at 631-566-7667. His smallest spoons sell for $30 each. Most of these he calls “butterfly spoons,” so named by a friend of his. The bowl of these spoons is wide and shallow and so resembles a butterfly. Not long ago he took to making longer-handled spoons in response to a customer’s request. Why didn’t he make them before?

“My oiling pot was too small,” he explains matter-of-factly. All of his handmade spoons are rubbed with walnut oil to cure them. When he went out and bought that bigger pot it really expanded his spoon-making horizons.

Hubbard’s one-of-kind spoons are perfect for any cook on your gift-giving list and for newlyweds. I bought one for my mom and one for my stepmom. The two spoons are as different and as interesting as these two women are. His spoons are not at all dishwasher safe, Hubbard stresses. That’s no problem—hand-carving deserves hand-washing in my book!

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Handcrafted spoon by Ted Hubbard
Handcrafted spoon by Ted Hubbard, Photo: S. Dermont
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