Chef-owner of Jewel in Melville, Be-Ju in Melville, A Mano Osteria & Wine Bar in Mattituck, A Lure Chowder House & Oyster-ia in Southold and Kingfish Oyster Bar in Westbury, Thomas Schaudel is a very busy man. But he’s taking a night off (maybe) to be among the top East End chefs gathering to honor the doyenne of North Fork dining, the North Fork Table & Inn’s Chef Claudia Fleming, at Dan’s Chefs of the North Fork hosted by The Halyard at Sound View Greenport on Saturday, July 7.
A fellow titan of the industry, Schaudel himself was honored, along with East Hampton’s New York Times writer Florence Fabricant, for his contributions to the East End dining scene, at a Dan’s North Fork event in 2014. And now, four years later, we share the secret of that night—after receiving his honors from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Schaudel, the hardest working man in Long Island dining, sneaked out to cater a nearby event that same night! Thankfully, he left behind an ample amount of his famous tuna appetizers with a staffer.
Schaudel has been promising a follow-up to his “hot” tell-all Playing With Fire: Whining & Dining on the Gold Coast for several years now. He enjoys a well-earned reputation for telling it like it is. Schaudel on wine pairings: “I make my own wines at Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, so I tend to drink those more that any other winery’s. [But] I drink them all when offered.”
What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of chefs?
It’s not all bright lights and glitter. It’s a pirate’s life and it’s not for everyone. Young ones need to figure out that it’s either in their DNA or not. If it is, you can’t do anything else. If it’s not, you can only fake it for so long before looking for a job with the county. The faster one learns that, the better off we’ll all be.
Where are you from?
Carle Place. As a native son of Long Island, I spent a lot of time on the water, so cooking all manner of fish and seafood is what lights me up. Being around the farms, the bay and the wineries is like Disneyland for a cook, and hanging with the folks who produce all of the above is such a hoot. Kindred spirits, all.
What’s your earliest food memory?
The smell of roasted pork in my grandmother’s kitchen.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
Fish of any kind. I love the seasonality, different species and the delicate nature of it and all the possibilities it offers for different preparations.
How would you describe the evolution of the North Fork dining scene?
With more people coming to the North Fork and the explosion of fine wines being produced here, it was natural for chefs and restaurants to follow. That migration has added to a restaurant culture that was started by John Ross 40 some odd years ago.
How does living on the East End inform your cooking and culinary creativity?
I’ve been on the East End, in some capacity, since the late ’60s and have seen so much change, but there are some things that will always remain the same. Again, being around the farms, the fishermen, oyster growers, the wineries, all play into your culinary sensibility.
Who inspired your career the most?
Santon Curti, my mentor, who taught me how to cook and who just happens to be the kindest human being I know. Louis “Shorty” Ellis, whose two best attributes were the ability to drink two bottles of vodka a day and having a penchant for carrying unlicensed firearms, for teaching me what NOT to do in a kitchen. And Muhammad Ali as a study in tenacity. If you’re going to be in the high-end restaurant business, you better be able to take a blow and get your ass back up off the canvas.
Do you ever eat at your own restaurant on your days off?
Only when I’m checking up. At times, I’ve learned that I should check up more often.
What does the phrase “taste of summer” bring to mind for you?
Corn, tomatoes, lobster and basil.
What are you most looking forward to about the Dan’s Chefs of the North Fork event?
The camaraderie of like-minded folks both in the kitchen and the dining room celebrating the wonders of the region. Perhaps a bit of Bacchanalia?
What else would you like our readers to know about dining, and drinking, on the East End this summer?
Get to it. We’re waiting for you. [But, of note to readers, as it’s written in Schaudel’s book, not EVERYONE can eat at 7 p.m. on Saturday.]