Sam McCleland, executive chef at Beacon in Sag Harbor, had to be happy with the news that the 2018 U.S. Open will be played at Shinnecock Hills. If he weren’t immersed in the world of food, creating such favorites as crispy fish tacos and working magic with local blackfish, “I think I’d be a pro golfer,” he says. “I wish I could play a lot more than I do.”
The odds of finding more time are slim, especially now that summer dining on the East End is in full swing. But McCleland did take a break from the kitchen to talk with us about his favorite local ingredients, the moment he knew culinary arts could be his calling, and joining other top chefs from the North and South Forks of Long Island on July 16 at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks.
What Are You Most Looking Forward to at the Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Event… Seeing my colleagues and tasting their food—you like to get around and see what other people are doing.
Food That Defines Summer on Long Island… For me, fresh corn, fresh fish, fresh tomatoes—all that is at your fingertips.
If You Had Two Forks in Your Hand Right Now, You Would Like to Stick Them In… A pork belly with maybe a local fluke crudo—a nice fresh fish, you add a little lime.
A Word That Defines How You Feel About Food… Inspired.
The Moment You Knew Food Was Your Calling… At an early age, maybe making box cakes when I was 8 or 9. I stared doing birthday cakes for my family, and it just snowballed from there.
Favorite Local Ingredient… Local corn would be my favorite. I grew up in Southern Illinois, surrounded by corn.
Where You Find Inspiration for a New Dish… Talking about food with my wife—she’s a real foodie.
People’s Biggest Misconception About Pairing Wine and Food… Following the rules is a misconception—as a chef you kind of want to go outside the borders. Whatever is good for your palate.
What’s Great About Being Part of the Cuisine Culture on the East End… The local products by far are up there, the avid foodies around us are up there. A lot of people out here know a lot about food, so I take every criticism or compliment to heart.
Worst Kitchen Disaster Story… I was a sous chef at a country club, and it was an event for 150 people and I was making Chicken Kiev. I packed too many on the sheet pan, and they wound up serving rare Chicken Kiev to these country club members. It didn’t go over that well.
The World Ends Tomorrow. Your Last Meal Would Be… Grilled prime steak, local arugula and local corn.
The Perfect Meal Is… Since we work a lot, a simple meal at home with my wife and kids.
When You Get to Foodie Heaven, the Guy at the Gate Will Say To You… I believe he’s going to say, “Nice job.”
Dan’s Taste of Two Forks is Saturday, July 16, in Sayre Park in Bridgehampton, NY. For more info and to purchase tickets, click here.