Sometimes when I’m cooking alone in my kitchen I pretend I’m Julia Child and narrate as I make the meal—accent and everything. I’ll even talk to imaginary camera people to help them set up the shot and then show off the finished plate with a game show flourish and a wink. Don’t judge! I’m sure you do it, too. But chef and TV personality George Hirsch doesn’t have to pretend. His home kitchen in Southampton is also the set for his cooking show, George Hirsch Lifestyle, which airs on public television. This show is the latest in Hirsch’s 20-year career on TV and this season all the episodes have been shot in the Hamptons, where George visits winemakers, farmers and chefs to learn more about the wave of sustainable, local food and beverages washing over our foodshed.
His kitchen is bright and airy, lots of white and lots of tools. In the center is a big butcher-block island, flanked by two stove tops and a sink that looks out onto the backyard where there’s five or six grills; he’s lost count. It’s stuffed with wine from local producers and a few bottles of what he calls a vanity project, his own label that came from grapes picked and crushed just before Hurricane Sandy crashed our shores. His dinner parties are legendary. “It’s the toughest seat to get in the Hamptons,” he says, laughing at himself. Hey George, invite me! I promise I’ll do my Julia Child impression.
“We had Tom Schaudel’s 50th birthday party here. Roman Roth sabered a bottle of Champagne. His brandy is outstanding, by the way. One year I did an Aw Shucks party with Tony Hitchcock. Everybody had to bring something you had to shuck, like oysters, clams and corn. One year we did the food at the Hampton Classic. Everyone was playing tennis with sauté pans. Part of a good party is you need to know your audience, even when it comes to a menu. I like to invite guests that are a little different. Then it can be about what’s behind the meat, rather than on the plate.”
On Local Food Shopping
“Each farmers market has a different vibe and I like to visit them all. One show I did with Scott Chaskey at Quail Hill Farm we were pulling up garlic scapes. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, so serene. Another time we shot in Montauk, where we set up an outside kitchen. The light was great, but the fishing was terrible. I get my eggs from King’s, which is just down the street. And I love David Falkowski of Open Minded Organics. Talk about ‘Mr. Wind Me Up.’ He was so engaging.”
What’s on the Menu
“For pork sandwiches, I used a tenderloin instead of pulled and serve it with celery root slaw. Put them both inside a potato roll. I have a branzino, which is a small bass, grilled whole with grilled lemons and a kale salad. The mussels are sautéed on top of the stove with white wine and herbs. The beet salad was made with red and golden beets, cucumbers, fennel and dill and then tossed in olive oil and lemon juice. And there’s grilled corn with shrimp and lobster salad with lime. There was nothing done to the corn other than I just grilled it. For dessert there’s a chocolate pound cake, which I then pour on simple syrup made with Sag Harbor Rum.”
How He Cooks
“For my show, there’s no food styling. It comes out of the pot and goes right on the plate. That’s what it is. I don’t use a teleprompter. I’ve got all the baking notes in my head and all the recipes. I have tools up here, but you should see the basement. I’ve got three rooms filled with cookware.”
What’s for Breakfast?
“This morning I had kasha, autumn wheat, yogurt, blueberries and coffee. And usually some fresh-squeezed orange. Then I had a half banana before I worked out.”