Gray Gardell-Gross is Head Chef of 668 The Gig Shack in Montauk, the recognized birthplace of the “Montaco,” the taco. Meet Gardell-Gross at the MonTaco event, Dan’s Corona MonTaco Oceanfront Fiesta on Saturday, August 4 at Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club and check out the original goods. Gardell-Gross has much to share, much of it communicated in Zen-like parables such as this gem, “Red lobster, blue lobster/ I hate to say it, but they all become cooked lobster/ Death by boiling is not so uncoiling/ But to cut the head off of a live crab you must be mad!”
Where are you from originally? How do memories of that home continue to influence your work?
The Big Apple—I don’t really eat apples.
How does living on the East End inform your cooking and culinary creativity?
I used to believe in how nice it was being able to serve “local” Striped Bass and other migratory fish to all of our guests. But a friend of mine raised the question of people moving to Montauk, but not being born here. Years ago, the word “tocal” (tourist-local) became a thing. So I’m super happy to try and bring some of the best “tocal” fish to you all this summer!
Who has inspired your career the most?
I said my mamma last year—so this year I’ll go for my father. Love you Pops, way to scare me enough to the point where I wanted to work hard. And for the great fake smile! I think since I’m doing this I can cross promote a little bit. Everyone check out my dad’s new holistic dental product called Alkawhite—it cleans, lowers your body acidity, whitens and makes your mouth feel fantastic!
Which Long Island wines are you drinking these days?
Bedell Cellars hooks it up and [I give] a big shout out to Wölffer Estate’s Fatalis Fatum 2015 red blend!
What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
I’m a burger and steak guy at heart. All I want is a tent, a pit fire, some meats and some friends. I prefer a simple meal prepared with a pocketknife to all the glamour of specific dishes.
What’s the most dangerous dining event you’ve ever experienced?
We had our giant stuffed Tilefish fall on someone’s head last year—it was pretty bad. But, legally, you never heard that happened, and sorry again, if that was you.
What pieces of equipment do you treasure?
My sous vide machine at home, and my pasta machine at all times.
What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of chefs?
Dear young me,
A hard and demanding job it is yes, yes, so all the more reason to find one place you like and bring it to success. Keep your head up and don’t hesitate to dream up anything that you can create, because a Chef is a Chef, but who knows what you do best!
—Spider, circa 2014
What’s your definition of “succulent?”
A smooth, velvet-like texture on the mouth, eating something that almost forces you to drool. Chicken Parmesan is definitely not succulent but it sure is delicious!
What makes a cocktail a “craft cocktail?”
I think that it is all the “showmanship” of the cocktail. I don’t think everyone thinks playing with Legos is a craft, but wait until you see me do it!
Dan’s Corona MonTaco Oceanfront Fiesta is Saturday, August 4 at Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club. GA tickets are $125 for admission 7:30 p.m.–10 p.m. Featuring celebrated chefs’ culinary twists on classic Mexican cuisine. VIP tickets are $199 and include After Party 10 p.m. to midnight. For info on all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTaste.com.