Dining Features

Playing 20 Questions with Chef Arie Pavlou of Water Mill’s Bistro Été

He's a carnivore, his wife's a vegetarian, and they work in perfect harmony.

Our famous summer series of food events, Dan’s Taste of Summer (DTOS)—Rosé Soirée, Chefs of the North Fork, GrillHampton, Taste of Two Forks—concluded on August 4 with Dan’s Corona MonTaco Waterfront Fiesta at Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club. But we actually got the ball rolling with a no-holds-barred dinner for serious foodies—our DTOS sponsors—on May 23. The memorable meal was held at Bistro Été in Water Mill.

RELATED: Dan’s Taste of Summer Kick-Off Dinner Photos

Liz Pavlou and Chef Arie Pavlou invite you to Bistro ete' for dinner, drinks and a game of croquet on the front lawn
Liz Pavlou and Chef Arie Pavlou invite you to Bistro Été for dinner, drinks and a game of croquet on the front lawn, Photo: Barbara Lassen

After taking some time to recover from the effects of so much good food and wine, I recently played a game of 20 questions with the South Fork’s only Cyprus-born, Cordon Bleu-trained chef—Arie Pavlou, owner, with his wife Liz, of Bistro Été.

While Chef Arie self-identifies as a “carnivore,” Liz is a longtime vegetarian. They work in concert to develop a menu to please all palates and preferences. Liz says that Arie will often shout, “Hey Liz, taste this, it’s amazing!” And, according to her, Arie “Sexy Chef” Pavlou, “makes love to every pan in that kitchen.” That’s a lot of love.

1. If rosé were a car, where would you drive it?
Down a windy road into the country.

2. How do memories of Cyprus continue to influence your work?
The freshness and spontaneity of nature—it rained last night, there’ll be mushrooms tomorrow. I keep a garden right outside our restaurant’s kitchen.

3. What’s your earliest food memory?
The commandaria donkey mill, the smell of the grapes and the fresh wine, the bees and wasps dying in the pre-fermentation.

4. How does living on the East End influence your cooking?
The availability of the seasonal bounty of the East End—fish, vegetables, fruit—I use what’s in season. I love preparing fish because it’s so fresh out here. The fish itself is different, changes every couple of weeks.

5. What’s an ingredient or method that you refuse to use?
I stay away from farmed fish. The best fishing is right here!

6. When did you begin to truly appreciate wine?
I’ve been allowed to drink wine with dinner since I was ten. I “discovered” Champagne when I was at school in France. You need knowledge of how wine is made in order to pair it and to converse with your diners. Bistro Été is the first restaurant where I’ve curated the wine list—really tasting and understanding the pairings.

7. Which Long Island wines are you drinking these days?
We’re enjoying our housemade rosé “juice and gin” cocktails and we’re celebrating summer with Channing Daughters Cuvée Tropical, paired with our ceviche.

8. What does “wine is food” signify to you?
It means you can have a bottle of wine for dinner! If you’re not on Weight Watchers. Every time you eat or drink, make it a personal goal to enjoy every drop, sip and morsel. Every glass is a meditation on texture, flavor and body. Memories resurface with every sip. Every time you take a bite, go somewhere in your mind—then we know we’ve done our mission, it’s not just about being full. Romanticize.

9. What’s the most unusual substitution you’ve ever been asked to make?
To shave truffles onto our curry scallops with pomegranate seeds. At first I refused. But they loved it. I told some other customers about it—they loved it too.

10. What’s your favorite celebrity dining story?
Saul Katz, President of the Mets, came to Bistro Été when it was a summer pop-up across the street. He was thrilled by our pappardelle with short ribs. He was there every week and so was his brother-in-law Fred Wilpon. Mr. Katz said I could have tickets to a game as long as he could have a seat in our restaurant. That’s cool. At the end of the summer, Labor Day weekend, we had no chairs left and I heard Liz answering the phone messages. Mr. Katz’s assistant was on there insisting that we always had a seat for him. I just laughed. The funny thing is, I don’t even follow baseball!

11. What piece of equipment do you covet?
An ice cream machine—a BIG one!

12. What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of diners?
Appreciate the time and effort that goes into making your dinner. Don’t be in a rush, ENJOY.

13. How can chefs help to make positive changes in American eating?
Stay away from mass-processed foods—preservatives and all that garbage! Embrace the clean and natural.

14. What dish do you like to prepare for vegans?
Grilled Romaine lettuce filled with beans or a zucchini spaghetti (“zoodles”) dish. We get a lot of vegans. I enjoy this pleasant challenge. I don’t want to serve something I myself don’t like—vegan or not. Most of our soups du jour are vegan, almost all of them are vegetarian.

15. What beverage do you pair with it?
A white Bordeaux from Graves.

16. What makes a cocktail a “craft cocktail?”
Originality and use of superior, fresh ingredients. Handmade, naturally infused, not canned or frozen. The Green Thumb farmstand gave me a lemongrass plant, which we often use in cocktails, and with teas.

17. What’s the most unusual receptacle you’ve drunk an alcoholic beverage from?
Not a shoe…hollowed out gourds in Cyprus [but that’s] normal for me.

Editor’s note: I can’t make out Chef Arie’s answers to questions 18 through 20 from my notes. The interview broke down into a foodie love fest over margaritas and hot chocolate chip cookies. Gourmet dog biscuits may have been consumed as well.

For info on all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTasteofSummer.com.

Bistro Été, 760 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, 631-500-9085, bistroete.com

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