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A Hamptons Happening with Todd English

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Last night at the home of Maria and Kenneth Fishel in Bridgehampton, Hamptonites celebrated the 9th annual A Hamptons Happening. This event is about a lot more than just the fashion set throwing down under a white haute tent (okay, that's a big part of it), but the food tastes a little sweeter when proceeds raise money for the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation. We sat down with celebrity chef Todd English to discuss sustainable food sources, his love of the ocean, and the possibility of bringing a clam shack to a Hamptons beach. We know the last one is a long shot, but our fingers are crossed!

Why did you want to get involved with this event?
What I particularly like about this event is that that proceeds really go to research. I like the organization's approach, and they are working with some smart agencies around the world and China is really involved. I work with the American Cancer Society as well and a lot of hospice organizations. But this event is the one that really targets research. And that's so important.

Absolutely. Well, since you're throwing this event in the Hamptons, we're curious if you spend much time out East.
I do!

Are you a beach-goer? A surfer?
Yes, I'm a water guy, but I'm not a surfer. Well, I look at the surf. Does that count?

Not exactly?
You know, I like the ocean, because the rest of my life is pretty hectic. I find the ocean to be so calming, and it really puts things into perspective.

Since you have this deep love of the water, how does seafood play role when planning a menu?
Well, I try to be pure to the sea as much as possible. I want sustainable food sources, and I spend a lot of time in New England working directly with the fishermen on their boats. I like to fish. So, for me, it's about understanding why different fish are certain sizes; why certain swordfish are not caught under 90 pounds. And things like what happens to certain fish when they are deep water. There's so much you really need to understand about it before you start cooking.

So it sounds like you are a pretty hands-on guy.
Definitely!

When you are relegated to landlubber activities, what are you shopping for at the local farm stands?
Right now, it's peaches, peaches, peaches! Fennel and melons are just starting to come in, and the corn is almost there. Tomatoes are getting just about perfect, and squash is really great.

With so much great produce in season, what are you dying to cook at your restaurants?
[Laughs] When we change things up seasonally, it's almost always around a pasta. I'm loving the local clams here, so I'll do something with that.

What's your favorite Hamptons restaurant?
I went to Tom Colicchio's place, Topping Rose, last night, and it was awesome.

And would you ever consider opening a restaurant on the South Fork?
Honestly, I don't want to come here and work.

You know, chefs always tell me that. And, to be fair, you said that you'd rather hang out at the beach.
[Laughs] Well, if I ever did anything in the Hamptons, it would be a little clam shack on the beach. And that would be purely for my own selfish reasons!
· Waxman Cancer [Official site]
Jamie Sharpe