BYLINES BY SCOTT
SCOTT FELDMAN THROWS A ‘CHEF’S CAMP’
I’m often heard saying I am “chef-wise and cooking foolish” because my company, Two Twelve Management & Marketing, works with chefs for a living, but I lack technical training. However, those who have experienced one of my home-cooked meals might say I’m a pretty good amateur in the kitchen. It was time to put myself to the test, so I created a “chefs’ camp.”
As a kid, I spent a lot of time coming out East, and the Hamptons became my summer playground. I found the quintessential beach bungalow (affectionately called The Shack), where I enjoy my own summer nostalgia. This summer, I recruited three of my best friends, who are among the country’s most talented chefs—Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto), Joey Campanaro (Little Owl), and Jimmy Bradley (The Red Cat)—to come to East Hampton to enjoy “chefs’ camp” for a day in July. Their mission: to teach me about ingredients and technique; and with this bunch I knew I’d enjoy it.
My initial task was to make sure the kitchen was up to the standards of pros—I will take note of the lack of simple essentials as my first lesson. “I will assume you have a set of sharp knives?” asked Waxman on the way out East. I replied, “They seemed sharp to me, but there is a steel at the house.”
At this point I had held them captive for two hours in the car and figured the next step was to plan the menu. I’m actually not so far off the mark when I shop for inspiration at the farmers market; I just find what I will cook. “Menu? Let’s figure it out when we see what they have: It’s the only way to cook—from the soul,” Bradley chimed in.
Off we went to Balsam Farms. The bounty of the East End never fails to deliver, and with a few chefs, it was going to be an adventure. “Look at how fresh it all is; maybe we will grab some of those squash blossoms to lightly fry,” suggested Waxman. But the real treat was seeing them explore every nook and cranny of the stand, like kids in a candy store. Another lesson: It wasn’t only about what was there; it was about what tasted good. “Don’t be shy. Taste it, and if you like it, buy it,” Campanaro yelled out. I’m not sure he meant a cherry tomato tossing and catching contest, but it seemed obligatory.
Quickly I realized my job was to look, listen, and get out of the way. The wheels were spinning, and you never jump in front of a moving vehicle. So I grabbed some sunflowers and some berry pies and awaited my next task.
The following stop was Citarella, to Jason the fishmonger. It was familiar territory, as I spend weekends in those aisles, but once again, it was time to let the masters do what they do. I had other things on my mind anyway, like figuring out how we were going to get into the house, as I realized I’d forgotten my keys.
With clams and lobsters being tossed on the counter, an ideal beachfront menu was coming together. Just then, Campanaro yelled from across the store, “I’m going to do fresh pasta. Scotty, you want to learn to make farfalle?” I replied, “Will we use the well method?”—hoping not to show my inexperience. “Just get flour, eggs, and some sausage,” Campanaro replied.
Finally, we were stocked up and on our way to The Shack to prepare this amazing summer meal. I don’t think the chefs were sure what the final product would be, but I knew that rosé would be poured. Good thing for the spare key or this might have been like an episode of Chopped, and I might have been out before we started. It was like a whirlwind when we arrived. Banter flew about who was making what, and where my equipment was kept. I directed them to bowls, pans, knives, and kitchen utensils. It was incredible to see the unspoken language among them and how seamlessly the meal started to come together. Quickly everyone turned to their jobs, and I awaited my orders. Waxman asked me to pick the purslane for an onion and ricotta salad that sounded as amazing as one of his signature salads at Barbuto (his purslane with watermelon and pistachios dish). I watched as he prepared fillets of local skate wing soaked in milk, which tenderizes the fish. We then battered the fish and the beautiful squash blossoms in flour and prepared them for the grill.
When Bradley asked, “Do we have any adult beverages?” I was off to pop the cork of some rosé. Bradley was slicing ripe cherry tomatoes and getting vegetables ready for the grill: simple salt and olive oil coated yellow and green summer squash and beautiful purple scallions. Then Waxman, the elder statesman of the group, decided to use the tomatoes in the salad, and Bradley directed the ingredient for a new role in the ensemble cast that was Waxman’s vision. Moving on to the clams, Bradley prepared drawn herb butter and some bay leaves to throw them directly on the grill. Potatoes were salted and covered with olive oil and placed in foil to set under the rack in the coals of the fire. Then I joined Campanaro in making the pasta dough from scratch.
I quickly raised a glass of Wölffer Estate Vineyard rosé to thank the boys for coming out. “Are you kidding!” exclaimed Campanaro (the youngest of the maestros). “This is so cool. I’m here cooking with these amazing chefs.” Another lesson: Even as dear friends, they were all enamored of one another’s talents.
I took careful note of details in the prep and delegation of some tasks that might help my future endeavors. Then Bradley noticed a brown bag that was moving. “Aah, there are the lobsters,” he said. “OK, guys we are ready to grill.” Each chef took his turn using the fire and produced fresh dishes that oozed summer and the simplicity of the ingredients.
As we moved to the table with the initial offering of grilled vegetables, radishes, and salads, the clams were scooped out with our fingers and accompanied by some cold white wine (2004 Kistler Chardonnay). Then I was called back to the grill to attend to the local lobsters and a lesson in how to properly break them down so that the crew could dive in. For the record, I just think it’s a dirty job that nobody wanted to do.
As we devoured the lobsters and used some of the leftover butter from the clams, it was time for the last savory course: fresh pasta with sausage, Pecorino, zucchini, and tomatoes dressed lightly with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. We opened up a magnum of 2009 Joel Gott red to accompany our feast.
It was all effortless and gave me a sense of calm that, in the end, it’s all about enjoying yourself. As an amateur, you find yourself sweating the small stuff to avoid mistakes; but as professionals, you just go with it.
The final lesson was unexpected: As I entered the kitchen, I found out one thing even the pros haven’t mastered—you should also clean up as you go.
Read the Article at Hamptons-Magazine.com HERE.