The staff that eats together, stays together.
We always wonder about how food and wine producers eat. Gourmet dinners every night, or do they stand over the sink eating fried baloney with hot sauce? Of course it’s somewhere in between, but most take the time to sit down together and reconnect while going over harvest reports, new wines on the list or just meeting the latest additions to the staff.
This past year Joanne Pateman visited a restaurant, farm and winery to see how they ate when the customers weren’t there. As is expected, the workers at Garden of Eve in Riverhead took the occasion of staff lunch to the local extreme. Fresh bread was combined with the pile of green and yellow squash soon to go into community-supported-agriculture boxes. Inventiveness is prized, and more than a few romances have blossomed around the picnic table. At D’Canela, a Latin cuisine restaurant in Amagansett owned by Ecuadorian Luis Aucapina, Hispanic flair mixes with the local catch and harvest. At this restaurant, staff is really treated like family. “My wife and I don’t have kids yet,” says Aucapina. “So I treat my staff like my children.” The end of the summer barbecue at Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue is a chance for matriarch Ursula Massoud to tend to her brood. For the past 15 years the dinner has been “a reflection of the warmth they exude as a family,” says Pateman. Attendees include interns from all over the world, and all are wowed by German-born Ursula’s German potato salad.
We are privileged for this behind-the-scenes glimpse of these moments. They remind us that the richness of the East End’s food culture starts with its people.