P.J. Clarke’s Corporate Chef Michael DeFonzo is looking forward to competing on Team NYC against the fine folks on Team Hamptons at Dan’s GrillHampton presented by New York Prime Beef on Friday, July 20 at Fairview Farm at Mecox. He has fond memories of Long Island but will attempt to trounce our local chefs nonetheless. After all, as a bar and restaurant that was first established as a saloon in 1884, P. J. Clarke’s has a reputation to uphold. But DeFonzo reminds us all that “cooking is the fun part.”
Where are you from?
I’m Jersey born and Long Island raised. The feeling of home is a memory you always hope to replicate. I constantly try to bring those feelings out in all my work, hopefully to help people around me to either feel at home or be reminded of home. I think those memories influence everyone, even when they don’t know it.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Swedish cookies with my mother at Christmas or grilling burgers and dogs in the backyard.
How does life on the East End inform your cooking and culinary creativity?
I always go back to the roots of Long Island’s rich history with fishing, clamming and farming.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
Sunday dinner…it can change…but always Sunday dinner! Because any mix of family and/or friends are there to enjoy it with us.
Do you ever eat at your own restaurant on your days off?
Of course! I get more time to focus on our service and how a guest feels when they’re with us.
What does the phrase “taste of summer” bring to mind for you?
It evokes memories of grilling and eating scallops.
What piece of equipment do you covet?
My grandmother’s plett pan.
What’s an ingredient that you refuse to use?
Anything that has MSG in it. I believe in bringing the flavor out, or creating the flavor, not tricking the tongue.
What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of chefs?
The business and commitment. Cooking is the fun part, the work is the business and commitment.
Dan’s GrillHampton presented by New York Prime Beef is Friday, July 20 at Fairview Farm at Mecox. GA tickets are $99 for admission 8 p.m.–10:30 p.m. to see East End chefs pitted against NYC chefs in a one-of-a-kind cooking competition and tasting event. Enjoy an epic live performance by Long Island’s most popular band: Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot—Celebrating The Music of Billy Joel! VIP tickets are already sold out and GA tickets are almost gone too, so buy NOW at DansTaste.com. Patrons must be 21 or older to attend.