For Starr Boggs, the chef/proprietor of his popular, eponymous Westhampton restaurant, love is all he needs to keep going after more than 40 years in the business.
“It’s like the Kevin Costner film, For Love of the Game,” he says. “You really have to love it to do this business and to do it well.”
His passion stems from his childhood growing up on a 1,000-acre working farm in Chesapeake, Virginia.
“When I was a kid, everything we ate was raised in the gardens or on the farm,” says Boggs. “The chickens, cows, hogs. We ate well.”
He learned at a young age how to make sausage, scrapple, and the different cuts of meats his family cured.
“I loved the gathering of people and eating food,” he says. “I think that is when my love of food started.”
Now, at age 67, Boggs draws on that experience.
“You don’t want to be in this business if you don’t have a passion for it,” he says. “Everyone sees the glamour, but it is tough work and hard to be successful.”
Success is something Boggs has worked tirelessly to attain. Since he opened his restaurant 15 years ago on Parlato Drive, it’s been a Hamptons destination. The menu changes daily with the season and accommodates a variety of palates and budgets — gluten-free, vegetarian, and prix-fixe.
Executive Chef Frank Lucas, who has been working with Boggs for the last 30 years, describes him as “the force behind everything.”
Fresh ingredients, personal service, and a team that goes the extra step are what Starr Boggs delivers daily to its patrons.
“We go out of our way to get the best products,” says Lucas. “We source our fish and fruits and vegetables. We don’t take shortcuts.”
And people notice. Out of the 42 restaurants in Westhampton Beach, Starr Boggs was rated number one by Trip Advisor. Saturday night easily draws up to 400 patrons, says Lucas.
Their Monday Lobster Bake — a Starr Boggs tradition that’s been going on for more than two decades — is downright festive. Regulars and newcomers alike gather to listen to live music and eat a buffet feast of seafood, salads, duck, steaks, and sausages to their heart’s content. The restaurant is also known for its annual Kentucky Derby Parties.
One of the biggest sellers for the past 35 years that’s still going strong is the almond-crusted flounder with sweet potatoes, a banana, and a green vegetable.
“Right now, the fish is unbelievable,” says Boggs. “We have striped bass, blackfish. They closed the fluke season down for a couple of weeks, so we are getting it from the surrounding states. And, the soft-shell crabs are coming up from my home in the Chesapeake.”
The restaurant features two bars, a dining area, and landscaped patio with waterfall. It is Boggs’ sixth location.
“It is my favorite one, and it will be my last one,” says Boggs, who joked that his “dance card has been pretty much punched.”
Boggs’ culinary career on Long Island started in 1981, when he landed at The Inn at Quogue, and The Patio Restaurant, which he co-owned. After running a few other establishments, in 1986 he launched Starr Boggs, a small restaurant that grew when he moved it to the beach and then to its current location.
Boggs gets choked up reflecting on his success.
“Right now I am as proud as my staff as I have ever been,” he says. “They work hard. If you don’t love serving and making people happy, then you don’t need to be in this business. All my kids, the busboy to the chef, they all love making people happy, and I love that about them.
“I have one of the best managers [Joshua Benedict] I’ve ever had,” he continues. “A great line chef. A great sous chef. Between Joshua and Frank, you have to have a lot of right arms in this business.”
He stops for a moment to collect himself.
“Right now it’s a happy place,” he says. “Next year, if something happens, if someone can’t get back, then we have to start all over again.”
Starr Boggs is located at 6 Parlato Drive in Westhampton Beach. They can be reached at 631-288-3500.