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Confessions of a 19-Year Old Chef!

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How did you spend your late teenage years? Be honest! We confess to nights of debauchery and partying while away at college. Ambition? We figured that we'd embrace that concept post graduation, not at 19 years old. But, that's exactly what happened to wunderkind chef Greg Grossman. You remember Greg, right? He made headlines a while back by working at Alinea in Chicago, the three Michelin star restaurant that has been consistently named one of the top eateries in the world. Now, Grossman has turned his attention to the Hamptons, and he is the culinary director at Georgica Restaurant & Lounge, located at 108 Wainscott Stone Road. We wondered if this much responsibility was realistic for a teenager, and, yikes, we were wrong to question anything! Grossman has taken over former head chef Seth Levine's menu without skipping a beat. He is making creative choices, and we have fallen deeply in love with the peekytoe crab fritters, grilled calamari salad with gremolata, and the halibut with light yuzu kosho butter. Impressive and inspired, it seems that Grossman understands the palates of the persnickety Hamptons customer. He chatted with us about what's new at Georgica, table-dancing customers, and his commitment to a seafood-centric menu.

You are such a young chef. How did you land this opportunity?
Actually, it happened pretty quickly. I was working with Antonio Fuccio [the owner of Georgica Restaurant & Lounge] on a project for a couple of months. We were handling the back of house and all of the culinary operations. We're still actually working on launching that in New York. Antonio was happy with the food I was putting out, and things naturally progressed into a conversation of how to become involved with Georgica for the summer. I started working with the team to develop the menu, and we pulled it together.

The menu is quite different from when Seth Levine [Georgica's former head chef] was running things. What are trying to communicate with the food?
We want to make the menu very seafood oriented. In my mind, there are a lot of smaller restaurants in the Hamptons that focus on individualized items. But, there's not one restaurant that really has a seafood-centric menu. When we began the discussion about incorporating sushi, it just began taking over. We incorporated a raw bar and we have a variety of different dishes that use shellfish and a variety of different seafood.

What else is different?
Sometimes it's difficult to convey a serious dining experience with such a large-scale restaurant, especially with the nightlife component. Our goal is to make things not only about the high energy nightlife environment, but also about the food.

That's true. Some people think more about the after parties at Georgica than the actual dinner-
Yes, it's a challenge, and it's something that we realized from the beginning we would have to overcome. I don't want to develop something that won't go harmoniously with the nightlife. And, I admit that it's difficult to strike a balance with the menu and the service. I think we've hit our mark with service, but we have to think about the environment. I mean, people stand up and dance at the table after 11:00 pm, but I think we're making it happen!

Okay. So, what are you loving on the menu right now?
Everyone is giving great feedback on the crispy fried oyster appetizer with a black truffle marmalade with whipped mousse made out of a potato chip infused cream. It's sort of a playful nod to fish and chips.

What about the main courses?
I feel like it's a copout to say this, but our chicken entrée has really gotten some amazing comments. And, I love the dish. It's half a chicken, seared and pan roasted served with a guilan chili sauce and wilted pea greens.

Obviously, you are having a lot of success, so we can't imagine you have much free time. But, when you have a day off, what does your perfect day in the Hamptons look like?
To be honest, any spare time that I get, I spend it on the beach or by the water. [Laughs] But, I can't foresee having even one day off until maybe the end of August.