It’s been incredible. What I love is how the experience changes the further east you go out onto Long Island. Every town really has its own identity. It’s also kind of fascinating to see what businesses reflect the seaside communities that exist throughout the year, and the ones that I meant to cater to the city folk come in. It’s a great juxtaposition of chic urban style with warm “down-home” vibes. I love connecting with some of the other culinary talent that Dan’s Papers brings together—trying their restaurant recommendations and catching up, and so on. It’s also fun just exploring on my own and finding little shops and restaurants I’ve never seen before.
What advice can you offer first-time GrillHampton attendees to get the most out of this event experience?
Come hungry, and don’t let the lines for some of the food fool you. They move very quickly and everything is worth trying. Also, make sure you get as many business cards as you can, to try to visit these restaurants and these talented culinary professionals during the year!
What advice can you offer the GrillHampton competing chefs, both for pleasing the guests and winning the competition?
Stay true to your vision, but remember you are trying to please the crowd, as well. There has to be a balance between the singular vision of the chef, and trying to connect with hundreds of guests who are not familiar with your food or technique. Anything handheld is usually preferable to anything eaten with a fork, for sure—and making sure you have your stuff prepared ahead of time, as much as possible, is always appreciated! But above all else, have fun!
What’s the best thing about being a GrillHampton judge, and what’s the toughest aspect?
The best is meeting all the chefs and eating all the food, without question. Some of the ingredients that the chefs out east have access to are some of the best in the entire state. Plus, I don’t get to easily meet a lot of chefs from that area, being that I live in Brooklyn. The toughest? Picking the winner! There is a lot of talent at all of these competitions, and it’s hard to compare some dishes to others. It’s like apples and oranges sometimes. The taco competition [Dan’s Corona MonTaco] is slightly easier to judge since everything is roughly within the same format.
What’s your comfort food and why?
It really does change. Sometimes I want Thai green curry, sometimes I want bacon, egg and cheese on a Kaiser roll with well-done French fries, and sometimes nothing but chicken Parmesan will do. I think it really does depend upon the mood…and if I’m fighting off a hangover.
If you could have a meal with any New York Yankee, living or dead, who would it be and what would the meal be?
This is very tough! My favorite living Yankee is Mariano Rivera, so I might like to go for a traditionally Latin meal with him, but the idea of sharing a steak and a beer with Babe Ruth is pretty incredible. I love the food in New Orleans, so maybe eating with Goose Gossage and sharing some gumbo would be up on my list at very least as a back-up.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment and why?
Wow. I suppose I’ve never really thought about it. I think pursuing my dreams to be in entertainment through many years of struggle and many people telling me not to is certainly up there. Paying off my student loans to Yale is also no small feat!
When was the last time something you ate truly blew your mind? Can you describe it?
Yes. I had a meal at Alter restaurant in Miami. [Executive chef] Brad Kilgore is a genius. I kid you not when I tell you there were moments in the meal I was brought to tears. That simply never happened before. The most straightforward way I can describe it is that he made me think about food and flavors in a brand new way. When the meal starts with tzatziki ice cream, you know you’re in for it!
What is a culinary/dining/experiential dream you still have to fulfill?
I have not been to Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, Noma in Copenhagen, and I really feel I need to explore a lot more in Vietnam and Japan. I’ve never eaten at any of the Joël Robuchon, restaurants either.
When can we expect your next book and what’s the angle?
Book-wise, I have a few things brewing. One of them is a collection of recipes for parents to make with kids. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I cook with all my younger relatives and friends of my children. That’s where my passion for the kitchen began and I would love to pay it forward. I have some other stuff, but I’m going to keep it secret for now…
What do you find most rewarding about the career and life path you’ve chosen?
Honestly, the places it has taken me, the people it’s brought me in contact with and how much it has taught me about the world around me. I think that a lot of the anger and intolerance that this world is plagued by comes from people just being ignorant about the world around them. I feel it has truly made me a better person to come in contact with people with whom I have no common thread, be it a fisherman in South Africa, a farmer in Arkansas, a rancher in Alberta Canada or a hard-working jazz musician in Louisiana. Seeing the world through their eyes allows me to bring a lot more to my life. And what I strive to do with all of my books and all of my shows is to show that despite our differences, we are more alike than most people think.
Get your tickets now for Dan’s GrillHampton at DansTaste.com.