Occupation: Executive Chef Honest Man Restaurant Group [Nick & Toni's, Townline BBQ, Rowdy Hall, La Fondita]
Current Residence: East Hampton NY with my wife Cindy and two children Jonathan and Nicole.
KDHamptons: How long have you been living in the Hamptons? Why do you love it so much?
Joe Realmuto: I came out to the Hamptons 20 years ago for a summer to kick back and relax before digging into my career in NYC and never left! I really love being so close to the water and surrounded by so many farms. It makes farm to table easy for me, especially with a 1 acre garden behind Nick & Toni’s. I also love being able to raise kids in this environment.
KDH: Describe your Hamptons home, do you have a big kitchen?
JR: My home is my escape, it is on a dirt road and a rocks throw away from the water so it’s really quiet and allows me to walk to do all things I love. Clamming, fishing and boating. My kitchen is not what everyone would expect but it suits me just fine, I have all the appliances I need and have easy access to my deck which has my favorite appliance~my BBQ! I love to cook and hang around the pool with friends and family so it is just perfect. It is actually the perfect home for me.
KDH: What brand of pots and pans do you use at home? How often do you cook at home?
JR: I have a great set of copper pots my wife bought me 20 years ago from William Sonoma which I love. Here’s one piece of professional advice for the home cook: buy a great set of pots and knives, they will make your life much easier and also last a lifetime. I love to cook at home, but actually my wife does most of the cooking for the family. I just cook when friends are coming over to make it look like I cook all the time and Cindy gets mad when everyone assumes I do all the cooking because I am a chef! It’s kind of a running joke around the house…
KDH: What is your favorite restaurant? Favorite dish and drink?
JR: I love Barbutto Restaurant. I am a big fan of Jonathan Waxman’s use of simple seasonal ingredients that are not fussed with too much. Depending on the day, weather, and how I feel tells me what to drink. Summer day fishing is cold beer, summer cocktail is Mount Gay & Tonic and in the winter I love Bourbon.
KDH: Describe your perfect Hamptons day in detail?
JR: I love a good summer Sunday, waking up late (which is no later usually then 7:30) have coffee on the deck, going to pick up some bagels and making Bloody Mary’s, then just sitting around the pool with family and friends purposely staying away from the crowded beach. Around 3pm taking a walk to the end of my road with the kids and getting clams and oysters right out of the bay, bringing them back to the house and shucking them raw with the kids and shooting them back with some cold beer. Then off to my favorite farm stand~Balsam Farms to pick up some veggies~ and back to the house for a BBQ while drinking Rosé. After dinner, kicking back with an espresso & a cigar under the stars.
KDH: What is the greatest part about your job? If you could snap your fingers and instantly have another career~ what would be your dream job?
JR: I would not change a thing about my career except if I could make the business less seasonal, it would solve a lot of problems for me. The greatest part of my job is overseeing 5 restaurants with 5 different cuisines. Everyday there is something new and exciting and I am not stuck in one kitchen or office all the time. That was one of the reasons I got into this business, I was going to school for accounting and one day when I was at work at a catering hall job I had I realized I did not want to put on a suit and tie and sit in the same office for the rest of my life.
KDH: Will you share your “best kept secret” destination in the Hamptons?
JR: The Chowder House in Montauk. The fish & sushi is really good and the beer is always cold!
KDH: What are your plans for the holidays?
JR: Unfortunately, I try not to travel around the holidays as it’s our busiest time. Everyone else is traveling so the restaurants are busy and that’s where we need to be. That was one of the first things I had to sign up for when getting into this job and I am OK with it. My family feels different but it’s what pays the bills! On the other hand, we travel when everyone is not, so things are cheaper and a lot less busy which is really nice although it is getting hard as my kids get older with school and all.
KDH: Which is your favorite season in the Hamptons and why?
JR: I love the Summer! I like the warm weather, no schedules for kids, beaches, boating and long days. For us the restaurants go on auto pilot with lots of staff and seats are always full which makes my job a lot easier. I really like the produce and fish that is available all summer and it is really plentiful so it helps the creative aspect of my job. A lot of people complain about all the people but I really enjoy the energy that goes along with it.
KDH: If you could have anyone at your Hamptons dinner party [dead or alive] who would you invite?
JR: Probably my Dad. I really miss his company and he really loved to eat. My dad always loved to cook and [although growing up only eating hot dogs!] feel he is the reason I am a chef now. Food was an important part of my childhood which I am thankful for and something I make part of my children’s life.
KDH: What is the charity you are most devoted to and why?
JR: The Springs Seedlings which I helped organize a committee to fund and build a greenhouse at the Springs School. With my commitment to Slow Food and knowing where our food comes from I felt it was important to help educate our kids on this and what better way then getting your hands dirty and growing your own veggies. It’s a great foundation for their curriculum. It can be used to teach Health, Art, Science, Math, Social Studies as well as many other things our kids are learning in school today in a fun environment. You see childhood obesity all over the news today; this is a great way to teach kids kids how to make the right decisions.
KDH: What is your favorite cookbook? Who is your favorite chef?
JR: I am a cookbook freak and have hundreds of them. I love to look at what is going on in the world and see how I can take pieces of it and make it my own. I really like Nancy Silverton: The Mozza Cookbook for the moment. It is really simple and food you want to eat.
KDH: Do you have a favorite farm stand/grocery store?
JR: Hands down Balsam Farms in Amagansett! They are really committed to what they do and it shows in their product. We use them at all our restaurants and love to shop at their farm stand on my days off.