Chef Highlight: Damien O’Donnell, Harbor Bistro

Chef Damien O’Donnell Courtesy Harbor Bistro
Chef Damien O’Donnell
Courtesy Harbor Bistro

A 1997 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Damien O’Donnell landed a job as a prep cook in Manhattan. There he quickly learned that nothing beats hands-on experience, not even a culinary degree. In January 1999, he accepted the position of line cook at Roy’s NYC in the Marriot Financial Center Hotel. The downtown Hawaiian-themed restaurant was the brainchild of world-renowned Chef Roy Yamaguchi and also where O’Donnell began to hone-in on the creative and artistic aspects of the culinary world. Roy’s NYC delivered him the opportunity to work alongside some of Chef Yamaguchi’s talented friends including Chef Ming Tsai, the 2002 James Beard House Foundation’s Best Chef of the Northeast; Chef Michael Lomonaco, known for his roles at Le Cirque, the 21 Club and Windows of the World; and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the acclaimed and highly influential proprietor of NOBU, Matsuhisa and Ubon.

O’Donnell continued to broaden his culinary horizons by working at various Roy’s restaurants across the country and by getting involved in restaurant openings, including the opening of Tao in midtown Manhattan. Through his experiences, O’Donnell realized that his dream was to open his own establishment, and in 2006, that dream came true. Harbor Bistro, situated on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton, offers New-American cuisine with hints of Asian flavors and breathtaking water views from every angle. The restaurant has received impressive accolades with O’Donnell at the helm, including a “Very Good” by Joanne Starkey of the The New York Times and two-stars by Peter Gianotti of Newsday. In 2018, he opened a mobile component to his operations, the Bistro Mobile Kitchen, which is used to service all events from a backyard BBQ to an elegant affair.

O’Donnell has also had his stints outside the restaurants to showcase his skills. He shined in the spotlight while competing on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and Chopped. He was invited to participate in the James Beard Foundation’s annual summer tasting, Chefs and Champagne, in 2009 and 2016, invited to participate in the Great Chefs of Long Island in 2014 and regularly participates in Dan’s Taste of Summer. In 2017, O’Donnell was invited to cook dinner at the prestigious James Beard House which is recognized as one of the highest honors attainable for a chef.

Outside of the restaurants, you can find O’Donnell at the beach with his family and friends, coaching Little League softball for his daughters’ teams or rooting for the New York Yankees. He currently resides in East Hampton with his wife and three daughters.

Harbor Bistro opens for takeout only on April 28. Visit harborbistro.net more more info.

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