Holy Ground: Hamptonites Thrive in New York City’s Barbecue Speakeasy

Kai Vatash, Alexis Krisel and Nick Dwoskin of Holy Ground BBQ, Photo: Barbara Lassen
Kai Vatash, Alexis Krisel and Nick Dwoskin of Holy Ground BBQ, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Attendees of the 2018 Dan’s GrillHampton presented by New York Prime Beef got a delicious taste of Tribeca in the Holy Ground’s grilled chicken sandwich with house sauce and spicy cabbage slaw. But the three-man team behind the speakeasy’s table was experiencing a taste of home. Sag Harbor’s Nick Dwoskin and Kye Vatash and Southampton’s Alexis Krisel were excited to share the food of Holy Ground with some of their friends, family and neighbors. All three hope to be getting out to the East End more with Holy Ground pop-ups and party catering. As Krisel says, he wants “everybody to be together loving food.”

What have the two 2012 Pierson High School grads been up to? Vatash attended Baruch University and settled in Brooklyn two years ago. He mainly works as a server because, as he says, he enjoys “talking to people on the floor from different areas, different clientele, all walks of life.” And he values that this career choice affords him the ability to travel. Dwoskin now works as the kitchen manager at Foster Sundry.

While Vatash worked at the Beacon in Sag Harbor for seven summers, Dwoskin “diversified,” starting out with a stint “flippin’ burgers at Bay Burger at age 16,” where he first discovered “loving the rush, sweat, heat” of the “sporting event” of food service. His time at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton heightened an appreciation for wine pairings, especially for enjoying the unique flavor profile of orange wines. Dwoskin also worked at the Beacon where he feels he distinguished himself by waiting on both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. He says, “I feel privileged to be able to attest to the fact that they are two people.” And the thrill of celebrity proximity doesn’t end there. Martha Stewart was once at Bay Burger years ago, shooting a B-roll for her television show. Dwoskin’s only job was to sweep the floor in the shot. Stewart informed him, “You’re not sweeping properly!”

But that didn’t stop Dwoskin from pursuing a career as a chef. More recently, he was maneuvering a big armload of supplies into a city kitchen and gave what he describes as “the stink eye to a 40-year-old skateboarder who was in my way.” His staff informed him that that skateboarder was Tony Hawk.

Both Vatash and Dwoskin credit their parents with instilling an early love of food. Dwoskin says his style of cooking is about being “raised surrounded by ingredients, it’s based on great product.” He reflects that “I’m pretty lucky right now.” He’s referring to the fact that he does what he loves and that the kitchen he oversees is well stocked and equipped with “a whole animal butcher shop, an indoor smoker, a dehydrator, great product both animals and produce. It’s a major chef-run operation and a lotta fun.” His “favorite thing is to get a nice piece of fish or meat or poultry, like a duck breast, and bring out its flavor.” Meanwhile, Vatash highly recommends “enjoying a whole grilled branzino on a bed of kale with lemon marmalade on a sunny day.” Krisel touts East End seafood as “absolutely amazing” and he likes to pair it with Wölffer Estate Vineyard’s Finca Rosé.

All three agree that, as Chef Nick says, “where our food comes from is going to radically change over the next 50 years, it will be more local and sustainable of necessity, changing the way we look at food to be more conscious.” He points out that “all our sides are vegan, like our charred broccoli. Our vegan coleslaw looks like a regular coleslaw but is very different, containing mango ginger lime vinegar and olive oil. Our ‘pulled mushrooms’ are smoked trumpet mushrooms that nicely mimic the flavor and texture of meat.”

The three hope that they’ll have many more opportunities to serve East Enders with passion. As Chef Nick says, “call us, we’re in the business of saying ‘yes.’”

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