Dan’s Taste 2021 Chefs: Bob Abrams, Calissa

Bob Abrams of Calissa
Bob Abrams of Calissa
Courtesy Calissa

Joining the Calissa team in 2019, Bob Abrams brought with him two decades of East End culinary experience from positions at Little Red in Southampton and Oasis in Noyac to his college internship at 75 Main many moons ago. On Thursday, June 24, he’ll represent Calissa at the second annual Dan’s Chefs of the Hamptons.

First word (or words) that comes to mind when you hear “Taste of Summer?”
Fresh local produce and seafood! Corn, tomatoes, striped bass—things that you can only get in the Hamptons in the summer.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From where I live, where I work and where I come from.

You can invite three people, living or dead, to your dinner party. Who are they, and what would that meal be?
I would have a big Italian feast with my grandfather (Mom’s side), my grandmother (Dad’s side) and my aunt. All of whom are not with us anymore. I would love to have them taste my food. I know they would be proud.

What’s your favorite dish to prepare, and do you enjoy eating it as much as preparing it?
There is a braised striped bass dish that I do that has chorizo sausage, clams, tomatoes, capers, Peruvian potatoes and olives that is one of my favorite dishes to prepare.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Seasoning food, knowing when and how much salt to use in your dishes is key to enhancing flavors, not masking them.

Share your funniest/most unforgettable/oddest kitchen incident.
One of the most, if not THE oddest criticisms I’ve been a part of was that of a party that, upon finishing dinner, complained that their table was in an “oxygen depletion zone.” There wasn’t enough oxygen in the restaurant. Also, that’s not to be outdone by someone asking for their salmon to be “al dente.”

Who do you most admire in the food/wine world and why?
Locally, I admire Joe Realmuto of Nick and Toni’s, Townline BBQ, Rowdy Hall, etc. I had the privilege to have worked with him all too briefly at Townline. His tireless efforts to produce great food from each of his restaurants is amazing! How much he does and gives back to this community is nothing short of inspiring.

What is going to be the “next big thing” on the East End food scene?
I feel that now, even after one year since the COVID quarantine, restaurants on the East End will continue to be focused on keeping up and producing quality food to-go.

What are your hobbies/passions/interests outside the world of food, wine and work?
Nothing beats family time. Taking our yearly vacation trips to travel. That being said, some alone time playing golf is pretty awesome, also.

What’s your comfort food and why?
Hamburgers! They are the perfect sandwich—love them.

If you were not in the food or wine business, what would you be doing?
Growing up and playing soccer from a young age through college, I would like to think I would have stayed in that world and would be coaching by now at some professional or college level.

What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever tasted?
Chef Walter Hinds’s chive, oxtail risotto with truffles and sweet pea reduction.

What recent travels have you taken that have inspired you?
Due to pandemic, there haven’t been too many recent travels, but a while back our trip to Barcelona was amazing. Seeing and tasting the local foods of that region was very memorable. Hope soon to visit Greece.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
In life? Being a great husband and father. Professionally? I’m lucky enough to be proud of a few things: Being executive chef in a very successful Hamptons restaurant at Calissa, doing two dinners at the James Beard House, working and living in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?
I don’t know if this is a ritual as much as it is a rule; my kitchen runs under the philosophy of “food first.” It is quiet, there is no yelling. For me, composure is key to a kitchen producing to its full potential. Each day before service, I make sure that each person is calm but ready to handle the craziness that it about to come. This job is way too intense as it is.

What has surprised you the most about working in the East End culinary scene?
The camaraderie between the chefs from all restaurants, and the willingness to try to help each other when we can.

It’s your last weekend on earth—what’s the menu?
Every one of my favorite meals my mom made when I was a kid, and also hamburgers and fries.

We just handed you a glass of bubbly. Now please make a toast to summer on the East End.
Here is to the summer of 2021 being safe, healthy and busier than ever!

For tickets and more information on all Dan’s Taste 2021 events, visit DansTaste.com. And to learn more about Calissa, visit calissahamptons.com.

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