Dan’s Taste 2021 Chefs Countdown: Hayley Botte, Afragola Dolce

Hayley Botte
Hayley Botte

While some have experienced the decadent desserts of Hayley Botte’s Afragola Dolce at the East Hampton Farmers Market, many will get to take that memorable first bite at Dan’s GrillHampton on Friday, August 20. Don’t miss out!

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

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Nature is what inspires me the most—using food directly from my garden, growing my own edible flowers, things that look wild and untamed, people who appreciate the effort it takes to make food beautiful.

It’s also hard to not be inspired whilst traveling, so many simple humble dishes in other countries have been my biggest sources of inspiration. While adventuring in Sweden, cardamom became my new obsession. In Peniche, I was awed by the fisherman I stumbled upon, who had just caught an octopus and was cleaning it on the rocks to prepare for guests (Yes, I was invited to be a guest!) at his local restaurant. In a small town in Napoli, where my great grandparents were from, we were enthusiastically and invitingly “pulled” into a small sidewalk restaurant minutes after getting off the local train from Napoli. As soon as we sat down, Don Giovanni brought us antipasto, pizza, fried broccoli rabe, fried bread peppers, escarole and olives, followed by pizza margherita, individual plates of spaghetti vongole, a giant plate of fritto di paranza, followed by fresh watermelon.

I draw inspiration from these experiences as they align with me, help me to recognize what peace, joy, beauty and love feel like for me which helps me pour the same feeling, taste, music, textures and music into to new recipes, interactions with others, and to paint a life journey for me that makes my heart and soul smile.

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

Brad Leone, Ina Garten and my grandpa. One of my favorite pasta dishes to make is aglio e olio. My family adds walnuts and shaved black perigold truffles (when in season) to the top, although so simple, this is one of my all time favorite dishes!

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

It is such a therapeutic pastime when designing my custom cakes. I put so much attention to detail, right down to growing my own edible flowers in my backyard to decorate my cakes with. My current favorite cake is our strawberry cake made with local berries. It’s only available until the end of strawberry season, which is short lived, so needless to say it’s very special. Layers of strawberry cake with fresh strawberry filling and strawberry buttercream. I especially love the different shapes, sizes and stems local grown berries have, they bring new life to the top of the cake, it’s gorgeous. As a big fan of strawberries, I love to enjoy this cake almost as much as I like to prepare it—it screams summer!

Share your funniest, most unforgettable or oddest kitchen incident.

Before working as a food stylist, I was a production assistant and was cleaning up the studio kitchen after a job. I picked up a blender on top of a marble cutting board and did not account for how heavy the marble would be. The board dropped, the blender shattered and a shard of glass flew up and cut my arm open. I was rushed to the hospital and got stitches and even had to wear a cast to heal. I was left with a pretty gnarly scar. Moral of the story is to ask for help and always remember how heavy marble is.

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

Laura Muthesius and Nora Eisermann, a food styling and photography team based in Berlin. They tell stories through food which is something I try to invoke in my work as well; not just enticing people to place orders or buy something, but to make them feel something.

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

More and more plant-based and gluten-free options everywhere. Organic, plant-based and farm-to-table eateries that are accessible to everyone, like it is in Southern Italy and other European countries. And Afragole Dolce!

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

When in Portugal one summer, I grew a love for surfing. I love hiking, gardening, cooking for fun, styling photoshoots, painting abstract designs. I actually studied visual communications in college where I grew a love for branding and graphic design. I use these skills almost every day while growing my business.

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

Definitely sfogliatelle in Naples. My family grew up eating them often, but it was a sweet experience tasting how different these tasted in Italy. The ricotta filling is beyond fresh and stuffed between the shatteringly crunchy layers of dough. I can taste it just thinking about it.

What recent travels have you taken that have inspired you?

Two summers ago, I traveled to the Aeolian Islands off of Sicily. They’re a quiet group of islands that Italians travel to for holiday in the summertime; it’s easy to feel like a local here. The tastes of the small town of Malfa, Salina, Sicily are stunningly simple and burning with the pride that locals have for their cuisine—pistachio aranchini, caponata, fried calzones and so much local seafood. I cannot wait to visit this secret gem again.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Learning how to grow food directly from the seed, nurture it and watch it grow.

What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?

When working in the kitchen, I need to blast music in order to get into the workflow, but at home I have a guilty pleasure of watching The Real Housewives when I cook.

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

I’m just getting my feet wet working on the East End, but one thing that was a pleasant surprise is how receptive and appreciative the community has been to making plant-based and gluten-free desserts. I think a lot of it is that they understand the importance of sourcing organic quality ingredients—you can taste the difference for sure.

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

Where to begin! I have a gluten intolerance sadly, but if it was my last weekend on earth, I would most definitely be eating one or two or seven slices of pizza. Some of my favorite places are Scarr’s on Orchid, Blade + Salt in Montauk and MKT in Long Beach Island. There is also this little place on the side of the road in Hampton Bays called Taqueria Mi Pueblito. Everything is super authentic and insanely delicious—I live for their al pastor tacos, you can never order enough. Of course, I would have to indulge in an Afragola Dolce original cake. It’s hard to choose but the carrot cake and the double chocolate are my all-time favorites.

 Learn more about Afragola Dolce, visit afragoladolce.com.

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