Wax too poetic about food with Rosa Ross, owner and chef at Scrimshaw in Greenport, at your own risk. She’s learned alongside James Beard and Jacques Pepin, taught cooking and written acclaimed cookbooks, run a massively successful catering business in Manhattan and turned Scrimshaw into a top North Fork restaurant, but start to describe a meal as something transcendent beyond taste buds and you’re going to get a quick lecture—albeit one with a smile.
“Food is no big deal,” she says, her clear passion for the subject notwithstanding. “We shouldn’t build it up so much, get so ooooh and aahh over it. We should just worry about whether it tastes good.”
That is never a worry when you come to Scrimshaw, and won’t be much of a concern when Ross and other top chefs from the East End bring specialties and new creations to the Dan’s Taste of Two Forks event next weekend, where Ross is planning on serving Scrimshaw’s signature dumplings. “They’re all made by hand, which takes a lot of time and labor,” she says.
A member of one of the oldest Portugeuse/Asian families in Macau, Ross grew up in British Hong Kong, but servants prepared the family meals, so she didn’t actually learn to cook until moving to Italy years later and becoming the first student of future Italian-cooking legend Marcella Hazan. Having lived in Europe, Asia, South America, she now showcases a range of styles as a chef, from French to Chinese, but the influence of Hazan remains quite personal. “When I go home and I want something fast, I’ll make myself Italian,” she admits with a grin. “That’s my fast food.”
Fast and good are not typically part of the same edible result, but Ross insists “it’s just as easy to make good food as it is to make bad food.” And here’s her secret: “You have to use the best ingredients.” Really? That’s it?
“Anyone can learn French techniques or Italian techniques—that’s just a skill like anything else,” she says. “But I take care that everything I make is the best, that it will taste the best and be of the highest quality. To do that, you have to start with the best.”
Lucky for chefs and diners alike on Long Island, the best is often local. “Sea bass in season and Peconic Bay scallops” are among Ross’s favorite local ingredients, her love of seafood displayed in the fish chowder that has been a menu staple from the start. “The duck spring roll is always very popular, too. Local duck has been on the menu in some form for eight years.”
When something works, you stick with it, but Ross also finds herself constantly pursuing new creations. “I cook seasonally. I’m inspired by the seasons, but also by always trying to create new things. I spend a lot of time thinking about it.” And at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, we can spend a lot of time eating it. [/expand]