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Chef Steve Smrcina Says Seafood Defines Summer

According to Chef Steve Smrcina of Jedediah Hawkins Inn, seafood defines summer on the East End. “It’s so fresh. It’s still flappin’ around in the box when I get it,” he says. “Seafood kind of defines the area for me.” Chef Smrcina will be on-hand at Dan’s Harvest East End, the food and wine classic held on August 22 at McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue. Here, he dishes on the local culinary culture.

What are you most looking forward to about being part of Dan’s Harvest East End?
Food the people really enjoy—handmade food.

One dish that everyone should try at least once:
I would have to say soft-shell crab and lamb.

If you had two forks in your hands right now, what would you stick them in?
Oh, gosh. Probably a gruyère soufflé.

If you were to eat at your restaurant as a guest, what would you order?
I’d order the lamb chops. Glazed in cranberries.   

Describe the adrenaline of working in an East End kitchen.
Over the top. I’m telling you, it’s crazy. It’s seasonal, but well, that’s what makes it interesting to produce all the time, quality things. And from scratch. You know, and that’s really the challenge. You really can’t let your guard down. Even doing a simple Persian potato.

What drew you to work on the East End?
The place was nice. I got along well with the owner, who’s a great person. And it was quite a challenge. And I accepted the challenge, ‘cause I like challenges. I’ve been out here since March, the second week of March. I lived in the Hudson Valley for 26 years. So, I’m kind of familiar with the area, to a point though. It kind of reminds me of the Hudson Valley, this part, other than Nassau County.

What do you think defines the East End in terms of food?
Seafood. There’s a lot of it here. It’s so great. And the people really do a great job. It’s so fresh. It’s still flappin’ around in the box when I get it. Seafood kind of defines the area for me.

The trio of Dan’s Taste of Summer Events wraps up with Dan’s Harvest East End, the food-and-wine classic, on August 22. Hosted by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, the event will showcase some 40 East End winemakers, the dishes of 30-plus top regional chefs and purveyors. Tickets start at $125 for general admission and $275 for VIP admission. The event will be held at McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit DansTasteofSummer.com.

What is your favorite local ingredient?
Oh, I like the cod. And the asparagus here and the corn, that’s coming in right now. Also duck.

Where do you find inspiration, inside and outside the kitchen?
In God. That’s my inspiration. In the morning, I get up, have some quiet time, read the Bible, and get my things together. So…that’s really my inspiration.

If you were to pack a meal for the beach, what are three things you’d bring?
Charcuterie bread and really good French cheese. Oh, and a pear and almond tart.

If we looked inside your refrigerator, what would we find?
(laughs) Uh, nothing, basically. I don’t really have time to eat! Okay, I eat, uh, frozen chicken tenders. I don’t want to eat while I’m at work because I feel weighed down, I don’t feel like working. And then I get home, and man, you know, toast would be gourmet, but you know what, I don’t have bread now and I don’t have a toaster. It’s kind of a shame. A chef goes kind of hungry because you’re around [food] all the time. But I do like the desserts.

A great meal always begins with…
(laughs) A great meal always begins with prayer for me, because I’m very thankful for my meals. [It also] begins with a festive attitude and a friend.

Jedediah Hawkins Inn, 400 S Jamesport Avenue, Riverhead. 631-722-2900, jedediahhawkinsinn.com

The trio of Dan’s Taste of Summer Events wraps up with Dan’s Harvest East End, the food-and-wine classic, on August 22. Hosted by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, the event will showcase some 40 East End winemakers, the dishes of 30-plus top regional chefs and purveyors. Tickets start at $125 for general admission and $275 for VIP admission. The event will be held at McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit DansTasteofSummer.com.

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