This short and heart-felt message was sent out last Wednesday, September 2:
“It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that Chef Hayden has passed. Thank you for your prayers of love and support, please keep them coming. There will be a celebration to honor him and a date will be announced when determined. In the meantime remember him fondly with laughs, and smiles with food and family. He enjoyed nothing more then these blessings.”
Award-winning Chef Gerry Hayden was a North Fork culinary pioneer, an inspiration to many and a friend to all. Hayden was Dan’s Papers inaugural honoree at our Dan’s Taste of Two Forks event in 2012. He was given this distinction because he deserved recognition as a visionary; an outstanding artist and businessman. He and his wife, Chef Claudia Fleming, recognized the vast potential of the local North Fork foodshed and risked everything to open Southold’s North Fork Table & Inn in 2005. They left behind careers in New York that included stints at the legendary Gramercy Tavern, Aureole and Hayden’s own Amuse restaurant.
In a legendarily tough business, they made a go of introducing their high-end clientele to local foods and wines. Of course the preparations were key—North Fork Table raised the bar of East End cuisine. Hayden trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park so he was a master technician, but there was (and is still) magic in his kitchen. His dishes stood out in what became a crowded field in the farm-to-table movement—North Fork Table has often been called the best restaurant on Long Island. As I wrote in my most recent review of North Fork Table last month, “Overall the food is fantastic—it’s not just good. It dances.”
When Hayden was honored by Dan’s Papers in 2012 he was still able to walk, to stand on the stage and accept his award. Though he seemed strong, everyone worried that we might not see him at this annual event again. He survived for almost five years following his diagnosis. Clearly, his passion and his drive made him a fighter.
Fleming and their well-trained staff carry on Hayden’s vision and we are very blessed to have that spirit among us on the East End.
North Fork Table & Inn, nofoti.com