Segundo Pelaez, chef at Savanna’s in Southampton, has one thing on his mind as he prepares to join a gathering of the East End’s best chefs and winemakers at the first Dan’s Taste of Two Forks event. “I want to make that night special for the people, make sure they have a good time and really enjoy everything,” he says. That seemed a certainty once he revealed “I’m going to serve a tuna tartare—nice and fresh, light.”
Okay, so Pelaez has two things on his mind. Serving up culinary pleasure, and fish. Happily, the two go hand-in-hand. Or, in this case, fork-in-fork.
Your Favorite All-Time Meal… Fish—it’s my passion. I can have it for lunch, for dinner—for breakfast I’d even have a piece. It can be any kind, tuna to branzino to oysters, but it has to be fresh—the color, the flavor, there’s nothing like fish when it’s fresh.
Favorite Local Ingredient… Strawberries. I use them for the strawberry sundaes for dessert, and we also make strawberry syrups for other desserts and drinks.
If You Had Two Forks, You’d Like to Stick Them In… I’d like to toss my fruit salad with them—put a little rum in and mix all the flavors. Or you could do French Service—to serve the bread, you can use two forks.
When You Knew Food Was Your Calling… I was pretty young, back home in Ecuador, in the village where I come from my sister-in-law was a well-known cook. Where I come from they have machismo—the female has to go in the kitchen and the men have to go work. But I would look at her and go, Why can’t I go in the kitchen, do something different? So I moved to New York in the early 1990s and started as a busboy, then I moved to the kitchen, and that’s where my experience comes from.
Biggest Misconception About Pairing Food and Wine… Drink what you like. Everyone says you have to have red wine with steak, but you can have steak with a beer. Or a burger with wine. Why not have what you enjoy?
Personal Kitchen Disaster… I don’t come from culinary school, but I got strong from years of experience. So when people come to me from a culinary institute and they don’t know how to use a knife, that’s something of a disaster. You think, Oh no, maybe I should be doing something else. It’s not that I don’t have the passion to teach them, but when people step into the kitchen, I want them to at least know that.
The World Ends Tomorrow. Your Last Meal Would Be… Is there an answer for that? What if what you wanted, you don’t have it in the house?
If You Didn’t Work in the World of Food, You Would Be … I never even thought about it. I’m a chef—that’s what I am.