East Hampton Gourmet Food is probably the best-kept secret in the Hamptons. Kate Pratt and Michel Mazuret have quietly cranked out delicious food in a little storefront tucked behind Newtown Lane since 1995. The fact that they’ve stayed in business for so long, in a town so fickle, through good economy and bad, says something about their commitment to quality foods.
Whether it’s the takeout taco bar with a choice of seared tuna, chipotle shredded chicken or vegetarian refried beans, or dinner of cod Provençal, quinoa salad, tabbouleh and sautéed kale beautifully plated on the hostess’s own serving dishes for 15, or artichoke chèvre fritters, edamame dumplings, chicken and apple cocktail franks and shrimp dumplings as hors d’oeuvres for a big charity event, or vegan snacks, granola, Daily Green juice, and even their own alkaline and electrolyzed water in a cobalt-blue bottle with a yellow rubber zip-top to keep the oxygen barrier intact, East Hampton Gourmet Foods has got it covered.
You may even miss the destination location, squeezed in between a Chinese takeout and a tailor, but once you enter the tiny storefront, you will never forget.
You might see Chelsea Clinton sipping on Dreamy Coffee, a chocolate and almond blend from Sylvester & Co.
Down a Mega Shake of organic almond milk, blueberries, bananas, kale, rice, pea and soy protein powder after yoga or spin class and bring home a bag of their yummy cocoa-banana-nut Painted Bus Granola.
Come back for lunch. Their gluten-free veggie burgers made with cabbage, carrots, spinach and walnuts, quinoa flakes and brown rice is the best in town, hands down. Take it out plain or have them prepare it with some chutney and grilled onions on a brioche roll.
For dinner, their crab cakes are best sellers and their new Ethiopian chicken stew is a spicy wonder. Do not forget their signature cake, a raspberry-rosewater meringue with whipped cream.
The partners came to the East End after meeting in Key West, where they were neighbors, both working in the food industry. Pratt had moved to the tropical party town from New York City, where she managed two locations of the original gourmet food chain Mangia. But the city girl was having trouble adjusting to the laid-back attitude of paradise.
“It wasn’t for me,” she says sitting outside of her storefront under an umbrella.
Mazuret, meanwhile, was the chef at Café des Artistes, a formal French restaurant on the key. When Pratt decided to move back up north, Mazuret went with her.
“I kidnapped him,” she says.
They rented a friend’s house in East Hampton in the middle of the winter. They may not have had a clear business plan but they found British Major Hacking who was willing to share his space at 66 Newtown Lane. Hacking reigned over the Buttery, an English breakfast nook that served proper tea and scones, the Cookie Company and East End Delicacies.
“Hacking was the first to promote East End products to the city,” says Pratt.
Soon, farm stands began to ask Pratt and Mazuret to bake pies because they did not want to travel to Briermere’s, the famous pie-makers in Riverhead. Their pies also got them their first big wholesale gig with Hay Day Market, a Connecticut chain.
“We had the audacity to tell him his pies were bad,” says Pratt. “It was a miracle we got it.”
For their first order, the couple cranked out 52 pies in three days and stored them in Berkowski’s icehouse in Southampton. “It was nuts,” says Pratt.
Every week, they trekked to Connecticut to deliver hundreds of pies. “We had that account for many, many years,” she says.
East Hampton Gourmet Food chose to stop baking pies when the Barefoot Contessa opened down the street, in a more high-profile location on Newtown Lane. “We wanted to go back to food,” says Pratt, although she concurs East Hampton could currently use a good bakery.
The goal was to expand their wholesale business to get through the tough winters in East Hampton. “We presented a bunch of products to Dean & Deluca, and they took everything,” says Pratt. “Guinness Stout gingerbread was a big one with them.”
A large truck would pick up the flash-frozen gourmet foods and bring them to Dean & Deluca’s distributing center in Wichita, Kansas. They got paid “very well” until the company was sold to Omaha Steaks and the large corporation tried to cut costs, offering East Hampton Gourmet Foods much less than what they were getting. “It was a nice romance,” Pratt says. “It started winding down when the Barefoot closed. That’s when we started doing this. As soon as their doors closed, we built a wall in front of the kitchen and opened our door.”
Pratt and Mazuret got their love of food from their parents. “My dad was a great cook,” says Pratt. “He was a mess sergeant in World War II.” William Pratt was open to “all the guys” in his mess tent. First-generation immigrants wanted food that their mothers cooked at home, so Pratt’s father learned to cook many different cuisines well. “Many of our recipes are my father’s recipes, the turkey meatballs, kebabs and turkey chili,” she adds.
Pratt was also influenced by her grandfather, who was stationed in India with the British Army and told her tales of Indian food.
Pratt spent 13 years, on and off, in an ashram in India, 40 miles east of Bombay. “There were water buffalo, goats, rice paddies and amazing mangoes and papayas to pick from your balcony,” says Pratt, who made lifelong friends and kept many recipes from the ashram. She has fond memories of her and Gary MacGurn, the owner of Hampton Chutney, working in the ashram’s kitchen and cooking for thousands of people using “hot tubs and a coal shovel.”
“We accommodate vegetarians very well. Maggie, from the ashram, cooks the vegetarian dishes,” she says. “We buy vegetables mostly from Pike’s farm, certainly the corn and tomatoes. We load up great big burlap bags.”
Growing up in Brittany was an “awesome culinary experience” for Mazuret.
“My dad and I would head down to the local fishmonger as the catch was brought in to select the most incredible display of sea creatures,” he says.
Needless to say Mazuret’s specialty is fish. Bouillabaisse, regarded as a “big production” in America, is one of the chef’s favorite dishes. In France the meal is an everyday, seasonally dictated stew passed down through generations.
“Both my mom and dad like to cook, and they are really very good. When I go home we join forces and spend a great deal of time imbibing my dad’s amazing homemade pear liqueur and grilling our catch of the day,” he says, popping outside from the kitchen to deliver a chia drink to Pratt. “Tips accepted,” he jokes.
While French food is at his cooking’s core, Mazuret is just as passionate for exotic foods as his partner. In recent years, his travels have taken him to Japan. He delved into the culture by staying with friends he met in Hawaii and taking “country style” Japanese cooking classes, “an indescribable experience, completely different from French cooking techniques.” The chef is so infatuated with the Japanese cuisine, he has incorporated some of the dishes into the East Hampton Gourmet Food’s menu.
“We really try hard to change up our store menu all the time. On any given day, you can find many cuisines represented, from Indian, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Ecuadorian, Lebanese, Thai, Caribbean, Vietnamese, Greek, Irish, Ethiopian and, of course, American. It keeps it fun and very exciting,” he says.
In fact, the East Hampton Gourmet Food entertaining menu is divided into seven countries on their website. Stop in on the fly and find their freezer filled with a wide variety of appetizers and desserts; their refrigerators offer fresh juices, and their case is filled with healthy takeout.
Pratt and Mazuret are constantly expanding. You can find their vegan snacks (organic coconut-bliss patties, all natural jelly beans, lentil-rice crispbreads) in East End hotel mini-bars like the Topping Rose House and Baker House.
Not to worry, East Hampton Gourmet Food is not just for the upper class. They are dedicated to the year-rounders and offer teachers a 10 percent discount. Their local lunch club offers $10 sandwiches with a side and curbside delivery, and if you buy 10 coffees, you get a free scone or muffin.
They even thought of the dogs. Ten percent of the proceeds of all vegan and vegetarian items in July went to the ARF, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.
The secret is out now.