Dan’s Rosé Soirée Countdown: Osteria Leana’s Peter Van Der Mije

Peter Van Der Mije, Photo: Courtesy Osteria Leana
Peter Van Der Mije, Photo: Courtesy Osteria Leana

Peter Van Der Mije, chef/owner of Osteria Leana in Oyster Bay, will bring his culinary delights to Dan’s Rosé Soirée on May 26. The CIA-trained chef grew up in Florida and learned to cook from his grandmother, for whom he named his restaurant.

First word (or words) that comes to mind when you hear “Taste of Summer:”
I immediately think of fresh vegetables. There is a huge gap between when the weather changes and when I finally can get my hands on great produce. The wait is agony when you work in a kitchen that focuses on local and seasonal ingredients.

You can invite three people, living or dead, to your dinner party. Who are they, and what would that meal be?
Winston Churchill, Anthony Bourdain and Elvis Presley. Each of them shook up their individual professional establishments and shaped the world. The meal would either be a long, 27-course dinner, or Chinese food at some hole in the wall. Either way, it would be an incredible experience!

What’s your favorite dish to prepare, and do you enjoy eating it as much as preparing it?
I enjoy a simple, pan-seared chicken with fresh salad greens. The dish is healthy and delicious, and when all the ingredients are fresh, it can’t be beat, especially in the summer.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Cook your heart out.” It was from Phil Howard, two-star Michelin chef at The Square in London. I spent six months as an intern at The Square, and I still remember those words. Phil is one of the best chefs in the world who, in my opinion, hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves. The quote was written in a cookbook he gave me. It gives me inspiration to follow my own ideas and the encouragement to keep working. And that’s what I try to do every day at Osteria Leana. The cooking is really from the heart.

Share your funniest/most unforgettable/oddest kitchen incident.
It’s probably when I was an intern, and I was dragged out of the kitchen by the other staff and covered in fermented vegetable scraps and kitchen fat. I couldn’t get the grease out of my toes for days! I’m pretty sure you couldn’t get away with something like that today, but it was fun and a ritual in the early days of stages and mentorship.

Who do you most admire in the food/wine world and why?
Amanda Cohen at Dirt Candy. She is putting vegetables front and center and doing it in a way that’s less “hippie” and more modern. In my opinion, her vegetable-forward cuisine resonates with New Yorkers more than anyone else’s.

What is going to be the “next big thing” on the East End food scene?
I’d like to see a bigger emphasis on authenticity and terroir. I think diners want to feel a connection to a place when they’re dining out. The East End has the potential to make that happen, especially with access to great farms and seafood.

What’s the oddest request you’ve ever received from a diner?
They’re not so much odd requests, just contradictory ones. Diners with dairy allergies who request cheese for their pastas. Steamed vegetable requests before ordering a cheesecake or drinking a bottle of wine.

What’s the ultimate cocktail?
The ultimate cocktail is the one that fits with the occasion. A beer at a barbecue, an aperitivo before a great meal in Rome…it really depends on what you’re doing. One of my go-to cocktails is an Old Fashioned. It’s a great way to start a meal.

What talent would you most like to have?
Besides having the power of the Infinity Stones, I would like to be a better writer.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Probably my children. They bring me so much enjoyment. From a business perspective, I think that celebrating three years at Osteria Leana is a big achievement. The restaurant business is a tough one, and surviving and succeeding is an accomplishment I’m proud of.

What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?
Everything needs to be placed on a sizzle platter before being served.

If you were not in the food or wine business, what would you be doing?
Either a writer or a soldier. The power of the pen or sword!

What is your go-to karaoke song?
Anything without words. Beethoven’s 5th, perhaps? Seriously, you don’t want to hear me sing.

It’s your last weekend on earth—what’s the menu?
Everything I can get my hands on! But definitely some oysters and Champagne, red wine and steak, a Sauternes and apple tart. I want to enjoy great pairings in food one last time. Many people don’t take the time to understand or appreciate how to pair drinks with food, but it can be the difference between a good meal and a great meal.

For more on Osteria Leana, visit osterialeana.com. For tickets and more information on all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTaste.com.

Read more Dan’s Taste of Summer 2019 chef interviews.

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