Meet The Chefs Cooking Up Taste The Greats, Long Island’s Newest Food Festival

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L. to R.: Chef Kyle Koenig, Chef Guy Reuge, Chef Craig Attwood, Chef Rob McCue, and Chef Andrew Minitelli.

Food lovers, rejoice! 

Taste the Greats, a new food festival celebrating all things sweet and savory from Long Island’s leading chefs, is coming to Oheka Castle in Huntington this March.

Matching the incredible cuisines to be served up will be unique wines, craft beers, and spirits, rounding out an evening showcasing the best of the region’s dining scene.

In preparation for this simmering celebration presented by the Long Island Press and its parent company, Schneps Media, here are five of the more than a dozen chefs who will be among the stars of Taste the Greats:

Chef Kyle Koenig, Preston House & Hotel in Riverhead

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Chef Kyle Koenig. Photo by Jim Lennon

What drew you to a career in the kitchen? I have always loved food. Getting together as a family was a huge part of my childhood, and food was always at the center of everything. I spent a lot of time on my maternal grandparents’ farm as a child and my paternal grandparents were foodies before this was even a term. I remember going with them to Fredericksburg to pick peaches, climbing the tree for pecans, or picking vegetables in the garden. But they were always in the kitchen cooking. I was close to flunking out of high school, so I took a Food Science Technology (Home Economics) course as a joke, thinking it would be an easy class and also a way to meet girls. Much to my surprise, I aced the class and was awarded academic honors that year. My aptitude test also said I would make a good chef or football coach. I took my first job as a dishwasher in Dallas about two weeks after graduating high school and haven’t looked back. For some reason, working until 2 a.m. and missing what all my friends were doing never bothered me.

What’s your favorite food-related memory? Most of my favorite food memories are with my grandfather. I started culinary school in the summer, so by Thanksgiving I’d completed the basics in butchery and cooking. I was trying to show off my skills. My grandfather, who had always been the chef, made just one thing: mashed potatoes. He was just taking his time, making the dish perfect, while I was doing everything else, and I remember getting a little angry. But I after dinner, I noticed that the only dish that was licked clean was his potatoes. I realized that the most important thing is to cook with all your heart, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. 

How would you define your cooking style? My cooking is defined by four principles: seasonality, simplicity, precision, and care. I use only seasonal products. There’s not much froufrou in my cooking, because I give the most attention to the ingredients and technique. So when you’re cooking simply, it just needs to be perfect. What it all comes down to is that I care deeply about making people happy when they come to Preston House. 

What dish do you enjoy preparing most and why? Right now, on the menu, I’m in love with the duck. It is my favorite thing to cook and eat. The duck breast is aged, which develops flavor and helps give it a nice, crispy skin. Salsify is one of my favorite winter vegetables to work with and it’s on the plate three ways: fried, pureed, and roasted. There’s an orange puree so we have a little duck a l’orange thing going on. The sauce is made with honey from the hives right here on the property, and there’s a surprise little nugget of seared foie gras. 

Are there any misconceptions among foodies that you’d like to clarify? Don’t pay too much attention to foodies and what’s hot, happening, or cool right now. If you want to learn about food, it’s like Marco Pierre White said at the beginning of his book: “If you want to learn how to cook put this book down and pick up a f***ing sauté pan!” So I’d say put the phone down and just cook. And just because you read something online or watch it on YouTube doesn’t mean you’re an expert. Try to stay humble and learn from anyone. Just yesterday, for example, I had one of my dishwashers show me how she makes her escabeche. In my career, I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs a thousand times, either for family meal or service, and I still don’t think I’ve perfected it. I feel that way about all my food. There’s still a long way to go. 

The Preston House & Hotel is located at 428 E Main St. in Riverhead. It can be reached at 631-775-1500 or theprestonhouseandhotel.com

Chef Guy Reuge, Mirabelle Tavern in Stony Brook and Sandbar in Cold Spring Harbor

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Chef Guy Reuge

What drew you to a career in the kitchen? Mainly my natural love of food, taking an ingredient and transforming it into something delicious. Cooking uses all of your senses and if you like it as much as I do you never get tired of it.

How would you define your cooking style? My approach as always leads me to figure out the process of bringing the maximum flavor from an ingredient. I am quite conservative and respect vigorously the rudiments learned many decades ago. However I love to complement my knowledge with genuine ideas often brought to me spontaneously from different foods. In my head I visualize, smell, and taste a dish, therefore my style is not easy to describe.

What dish do you enjoy preparing most and why? There is not one dish that I prefer to cook but going back time and time again to a dish and trying to improve it each time can give me great satisfaction. People ask me often what they should eat so I ask them in what kind of mood they are today and always find a dish appropriately.

What’s your favorite food-related memory? I remember vividly some of the best meals I had throughout the world and that is essential, the rest I forget. The artichoke and truffle soup at Restaurant Guy Savoy, The roasted beet of Yannick Aleno, or the soup V.G.E. of Paul Bocuse those account for dishes I would not forget.

Are there any misconceptions among foodies that you’d like to clarify? Just the word foody is a misconception and at time a little pompous. “He’s a real foodie!” I heard that so many times and it usually applies to people who take themselves very seriously when it comes to food. I enjoy better the company of people who have a natural appreciation for good food, good wine, and life in general.

Mirabelle Tavern is located at 150 Main St. in Stony Brook. It can be reach at 631-751-0555 or lessings.com Sandbar is located at 55 Main St. in Cold Spring Harbor. It can be reached at 631-498-6188 or lessings.com

Chef Andrew Minitelli, Osteria Morini in Garden City

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Chef Andrew Minitelli

What drew you to a career in the kitchen? I was drawn to a career in the kitchen because I worked in my uncle’s pizzeria while growing up. I worked there during middle school, high school, college, and culinary school. It was my first experience in a kitchen and set the foundation for my life and career going forward.

How would you define your cooking style? I would describe my cooking style as grandma’s kitchen with elevated ingredients.

What dish do you enjoy preparing most and why? At the moment the dish I enjoy preparing the most is scrambled eggs and bacon because it means I’ve got a day off and I’m cooking breakfast at home for my girlfriend. 

What’s your favorite food-related memory? The first one is a general memory of my uncle’s pizzeria, growing up in a family business working alongside my uncle and aunt, my grandparents, my cousins, my siblings. It was a great way to be introduced to the world of food and restaurants. Second would be remembering the feeling I got after one of my dishes was on a Micheal White Menu for the first time. I was working in Osteria Morini Soho after going to culinary school and leaving New Jersey for Manhattan. I started as a garde manger [pantry]cook and worked my way up to a point where I could contribute to the menu. The feeling of pride and accomplishment was overwhelming. 

Are there any misconceptions among foodies that you’d like to clarify? I never really understood what foodie means. Is it a derisive term? Everyone has different tastes and opinions when it comes to food. I like to experience as many new things as possible and incorporate that into my cooking if I can. 

Osteria Morini is located at 630 Old Country Rd. in Garden City. It can be reached at 516-604-0870 or osteriamorini.com 

Chef Craig Attwood, Five Ocean Bar & Grill in Long Beach

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Chef Craig Attwood

What drew you to a career in the kitchen? I started cooking as a child with my neighbor. She would make recipes from Bon Appetit. Then I started working in local Italian restaurants at 13. I was washing dishes and prepping. I loved the excitement and speed of service.

How would you define your cooking style? My cooking style is somewhat seasonal. I like bold flavors with clean flavors. Finished with salt and acid.

What dish do you enjoy preparing most? I love braising meats in the fall like rabbit with fresh pasta, roasted venison, and seasonal squash. In the spring local asparagus, ramps [wild onions], local fluke, bass, summertime tuna, and mahi. Also local tomatoes, pickled ginger, white soy, rice vinegar, cardamon. Roasted eggplant with miso ginger with white soy.

What is your favorite food-related memory? Participating in a Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (CCAP) event in honor of Thomas Keller. I received a custom-engraved watch with my name and a personal thank you from Chef Keller himself.

Are there any misconceptions among foodies that you’d like to clarify? Please don’t refer to yourself as a foodie. Most people who do these days do not really enjoy all types of cuisine and just throw that word out there.  

Five Ocean Bar & Grill is located at 5 New York Avenue in Long Beach. It can be reached at 516-517-2828 or fiveoceanlongbeach.com

Chef Rob McCue, Granny’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt in Commack

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Chef Rob McCue

What drew you to a career in the kitchen? At an early age I was always drawn to the kitchen. Watching my mother prepare food all day in the kitchen with her friends was so comforting. They worked all day together as a team. That’s how I approach kitchens today: people first, process second.

How would you describe your cooking style? I would consider my style of cuisine elevated comfort American. I love the farm-to-table approach and cook great local sustainable farm-driven ingredients. 

What dish do you enjoy making the most? I am known for my slow-braised short ribs. I love to cook this dish as it takes on a complexity of its own. From the sourcing of the meat to searing and then braising low and slow. I just love it!

What is your favorite food-related memory? Cooking Irish soda bread with my mother is one of my most cherished and fondest food memories. It’s what taught me patience as a chef, and my mother taught me patience through food. There were many steps to achieving a great Irish soda bread. I now cook this with my 4-year-old son and teach him the same lesson.

Are there any misconceptions among foodies you would like to clarify? One of the most frustrating things for me as a chef is to have people tell me that eating organic means healthier.

Granny’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt is located at 1153 Jericho Tpke. in Commack. It can be reached at 631-543-7501.

Taste the Greats – Long Island will be held from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, 2020 at Oheka Castle, 135 West Gate Dr. in Huntington. Tickets are $100, or $125 for VIP and afterparty access. Tickets can be purchased at TasteTheGreats.com