Damien O’Donnell of Harbor Bistro Reflects on Restaurant Life

Damien O’Donnell of Harbor Bistro
Damien O’Donnell of Harbor Bistro

“It’s the fire within that made me fall in love with the restaurant life as a youngster,” says Chef Damien O’Donnell of Harbor Bistro in East Hampton. The Culinary Institute of America-trained chef loves to eat and drink local. Take an inside look at his kitchen here:

What are you most looking forward to about being part of Dan’s Taste of Summer this year?
Meeting new people and seeing some fresh new ideas come to life from fellow chefs.

One food everyone should try at least once in life:
A Long Island oyster on the half shell. It’s the balance of briny and creamy with saltwater seasoning.

What is the best pairing of food and Long Island beer? Long Island wine?
Lobster roll with Montauk Brewing Co. Summer Ale or some crusty baguette with Camembert and Wölffer rosé.

If you were to eat at your restaurant as a guest, what would you order?
I’m a freak for beautiful fresh tuna, so the yellowfin tuna poke would be my go-to, followed by the Tandoori spiced fluke with the quinoa tabouli and roasted beet lemon emulsion.

Describe the adrenaline rush of a Hamptons kitchen
It’s the fire within that made me fall in love with the restaurant life as a youngster. I still get the butterflies in the stomach pre-service and find great satisfaction from executing a busy service alongside my team of cooks and servers. We go to battle together and I couldn’t do it without them.

If you had two forks in your hands right now, what would you like to stick them in?
Fresh local clam linguine with a lot of garlic and crushed pepper.

Favorite East End-inspired meal?
I put a steamed clams dish on Harbor Bistro’s menu in 1997 and it has remained a staple. This was inspired from spending a day at our Nana’s house on Napeague Bay in Amagansett.

What is your favorite local ingredient?
Black sea bass

Favorite aspect of being part of the culinary culture on the East End?
We have a bounty of fresh local ingredients in our reach…This is a special area and that’s why I am grateful.

What does “local” mean?
Local means you have roots to this community…with food, it’s a product sourced in our immediate radius.

Where do you find inspiration?
My wife and kids are my inspiration in life. In the kitchen, I can get inspired by simply getting a smell in the air or seeing an ingredient in the store or on another person’s plate.

If you were to pack a meal for the beach, what are three things you’d bring?

Montauk Summer Ales for me, Wölffer’s Summer in a Bottle for wifey and sandwiches for the kids. All set.

A great meal always begins with…
Friends and family

Dan’s Taste of Summer kicks off with Dan’s GrillHampton on Friday, July 17, and continues on Saturday, July 18, with Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, both at Sayre Park, 156 Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton. Dan’s Harvest East End, the can’t-miss food and wine classic, rounds out the trio of events on August 22 in Cutchogue. For more information on all three events, including tickets and VIP packages, visit DansTaste.com.

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