Gala season is in full swing in the Hamptons. Sprawling mansions frequently play host to a jet set crowd munching on fabulous food while sipping decadent cocktails. It's all so champagne wishes and caviar dreams! On Sunday night, July 28th, the 2013 Chefs Dinner and Meet the Chefs Cocktails and Tastings Party will take place at the Hayground School on 151 Mitchell Lane. The soiree will move to Toni Ross' private residence in Bridgehampton for an exclusive four-course VIP dinner, which honors celebrity chef Eric Ripert. We cozied up to Ripert to talk all things Hamptons. Spoiler alert: he smokes cigars at Flying Point!
Congratulations on being honored by the 2013 Chef's Dinner. Were you surprised?
[Hearty laugh] I am always surprised to be honored, yes.
Awww, come on! At this point in your career it can't be that shocking.
I'm not kidding; it really is surprising!
You spend a lot of time in the Hamptons; what makes this area so special to you?
The natural beauty of the countryside is just incredible. The towns, the houses, and the beaches ? everything is gorgeous. It's very inspiring and relaxing.
When you are on the East End in the summertime, what's your favorite local ingredient?
I go to the farm stands and I look at all of the produce. I just love the fruits and vegetables. Recently, I found some amazing zucchinis, tomatoes, and peaches. Even the flowers are beautiful. I love buying them, and I think it's very important to support the local farmers.
So, you still do the shopping yourself?
On the weekends, do you primarily cook fish when you are spending time in the Hamptons?
Actually, I primarily cook beef on the weekend. I grill meat a lot of the time, and sometimes I roast chicken. But, for me, it's usually steak on the weekend.
When you're not actually cooking, what do you think is fun to do in the Hamptons?
Well, I love to go to the beach! And, in the morning, I go smoke a cigar on Flying Point. I love shopping in the towns and spending time with my friends. I go out to parties, and I love watching the sunset. Everything is truly a celebration when I spend time in the Hamptons.
What are the biggest differences between your Hamptons kitchen and your New York City kitchen?
There are not many differences. Well, there is a bit of difference in size, but the biggest thing is the view. In the Hamptons, my view is of trees. I look at trees and trees and trees. It's a great view!
Would you ever consider opening a restaurant on the South Fork?
Never! I want to go to the Hamptons to relax and enjoy, and I don't want to go there to work. And it's so nice to go out and not have people commenting on their meal. That's the best part.
That's understandable. So when you do go out to dinner, where do you like to eat?
Oh, there's a lot that I like! Let's go by towns. In Sag Harbor, I love Dockside, the American Hotel, and Beacon is one of my favorites. In Southampton, I like to go to Red Bar. In Bridgehampton, I don't think there is anyone better than Pierre's. In East Hampton, I like Serafina Pizza and Nick and Toni's. In Shelter Island, obviously, I go to Sunset Beach.
For restaurants, what's your favorite hidden gem in the Hamptons?
Bell and Anchor that just opened last year. Surprisingly, not too many people know the place.
· Chefs Dinner [Official site]