Recognized as one of the world’s leading vegetable chefs, John Fraser has played a significant role in redefining vegetables in American cuisine. With Michelin Star in hand, he’s bringing his talents to the North Fork.
The chef and his New York City-based restaurant group, JF Restaurants, along with a small group of local investors, purchased Southold’s North Fork Table & Inn. The eatery—which was opened in 2006 by acclaimed chefs Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming, pioneers of the farm-to-table movement—reopened its doors to the community on July 8.
As a champion of the farm-to-table philosophy, it has been a dream of Fraser’s to open a restaurant on the North Fork, an area surrounded by farms, vineyards and fisheries.
“I’ve been dreaming of having a restaurant like this since I was 20 years old,” says Fraser. “I’m in the middle of some of the richest farmland in the country, with access to the freshest fish, fruits and vegetables, and it’s like I’m a kid in a candy store.”
The chef’s love of vegetables started at an early age. “My parents had a garden in the back yard, so my first memories of picking vegetables and cooking with them was from my childhood,” he says.
“I’m also vegetarian, and am interested in cooking in a way that more and more people want to eat these days, that is healthful and puts vegetables on center stage,” he continues.
Fraser is no stranger to the East End. In the early days of his career, he spent summers working in kitchens in Montauk. “I went to college in California, but during the summer I would work in kitchens and bars in Montauk—including Shagwong,” he recalls. “I did this for four years—three during college, and one summer before I moved to Paris.” He later worked at Arpège in Paris, where chef Alain Passard was “heavily influenced in his cuisine by the ethereal nature of his farm, which was just outside Paris,” adding to his vegetable-forward influence.
Fraser now lives in New York City and, “while I love the energy of the city, I find so much inspiration in the wide open skies, farmland and nature as far as the eye can see,” he says. His portfolio of restaurants includes The Loyal, 701 West and Paradise Club at the Times Square EDITION. His Michelin-starred Dovetail was an Upper West Side favorite for years, until it closed in 2018. This will be the chef’s first restaurant outside of a large city.
At the start of his career, he cut his teeth working at Tomas Keller’s The French Laundry in California, which was “my first taste of a true farm-to-table experience,” he says. “At North Fork, I’ll be once again surrounded by farms that supply the restaurant.”
Following a six-month restoration project, the restaurant now boasts a separate bar, an airy and open dining room and two outdoor dining rooms. The team has aimed to “revitalize the historic home while preserving its essential character and spirit.”
Fraser’s menu items draw inspiration from the North Fork’s wide-open skies, surrounding waterways, farmland and vineyard landscapes. There is a strong focus on local seafood, meats, dairy, wines and spirits.
Fraser credits the Southold Mixed Grill, “which is the best of the local waters simply grilled and put together,” as a favorite. There’s also the Hen of the Woods mushrooms, with celery branch and celery root, and the Peconic fluke crudo with carrot, maple and jalapeño oil.
“We’re drawing from the open fields. Right now we’re foraging for sea beans, dandelion greens, wild sorrel,” he says of using local bounty to compliment the menu.
Local suppliers of the restaurant include KK Farms, a biodynamic farm just minutes away, Braun Seafood and Blue Duck Bakery.
Fraser’s kitchen team is led by Chef de Cuisine Steven Barrantes, who has worked with Fraser throughout his career. Beverage Director Amy Racine has curated wine list that reflects the North Fork wine region with household names like Bedell and next-generation innovators like RG|NY.
What does Fraser hope to add to the story of this iconic East End restaurant?
“The same spirit and philosophy is still there, but it is certainly a new chapter,” he says. “I’ve tried to balance revitalizing something historic and very special to the community, while also reimagining the menu, the service and the design, to create something new for those who loved it and for those who are about to visit for the first time.”
To learn more about North Fork Table & Inn, visit, northforktableandinn.com.