Dan’s Taste 2021 Chefs Countdown: Kait Kelly, Hen of the Woods

Hen of the Woods Chef Kait Kelly
Hen of the Woods Chef Kait Kelly

Located in the heart of Southampton, Hen of the Woods is laser-focused on local and seasonal ingredients sourced from farmers and purveyors and offers unique Asian ingredients and prepared foods. For their first Dan’s Taste event ever, they’ll be repped by Chef Kait Kelly, who will be serving up smiles at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks this August.

For tickets and more information on all Dan’s Taste 2021 events, visit DansTaste.com.

First word (or words) that comes to mind when you hear “Taste of Summer?”

Tomatoes, sushi, salty air.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

From my mother, and through my travels.

You can invite three people, living or dead, to your dinner party. Who are they, and what would that meal be?

Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Atwood and Michael Jordan. The best ribeye I can find, dry-aged, smothered in a great chive butter with crispy fingerling potatoes. Followed by a homemade cheesecake ice cream. That’s it. I’d want to focus on that conversation rather than the food, honestly.

What’s your favorite dish to prepare, and do you enjoy eating it as much as preparing it?

My favorite dish to prepare is lasagna, really, because I always make it for my huge Irish family. My favorite dish to eat is papaya salad, and I suck at making it.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Take time for yourself,” which was recent; earlier in my career it was, “Get there earlier and stay later,” which worked but ultimately wasn’t a forever piece of advice.

Share your funniest, most unforgettable or oddest kitchen incident.

Cooking for Barack Obama days before he became president was the most unforgettable. Funny and odd, I’d never throw those people under the bus.

Who do you most admire in the food/wine world and why?

Anthony Bourdain, of course, the biggest loss. But I also love Alex Guarnaschelli, Eric Ripert, Alton Brown, Alex Couillon and Dominique and so many people who have come before me. My greatest hero is Evan Allumbaugh—he isn’t famous, but he was my mentor in San Fransisco and he’s my best friend. I’d do anything for him.

What is going to be the “next big thing” on the East End food scene?

Well-paid cooks and appropriately-priced rent, hopefully.

What are your hobbies, passions and interests outside the world of food, wine and work?

Reading—I read 100 books a year—and gardening. I don’t have time for much else.

What’s your comfort food and why?

Any noodle—spaghetti, udon, soba, pho—don’t care. They make me feel at home no matter where I am.

If you were not in the food or wine business, what would you be doing?

I went to college to be a lawyer, so I guess I’d be at a desk.

What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever tasted?

A raw lobster and hibiscus dish at Geist in Copenhagen. 

What recent travels have you taken that have inspired you?

I’ve seen most of the world, but Japan still inspires me the most.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Circumnavigating the globe.

What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?

I always clean my clogs before I leave.

What has surprised you the most about working in the East End culinary scene?

The insanely lovable and supportive community, where once it was full of ego and competition, it’s now (post-COVID) a family more than ever.

What is your go-to karaoke song?

“Criminal” by Fiona Apple.

It’s your last weekend on earth—what’s the menu?

Crusty bread and perfect butter, Thai fried whole fish with three flavor sauce, tuna belly (lean), my mom’s omelet, mashed potatoes from Dad, agnolotti from flour and water, OG EMP duck, mint chocolate chip ice cream and EVERY DUMPLING ON THE PLANET!

We just handed you a glass of bubbly. Now please make a toast to summer on the East End.

We made it; let’s make it better than it ever was and take care of all restaurant people. Sláinte!

Hen of the Woods is located at 48 Hampton Road, Southampton. To learn more, visit 48hampton.com.

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