Nation’s Restaurant News: Operations in Action

Operations in action: Luce & Hawkins by Laura Doty

Situated in an inn originally opened in 1863, Luce & Hawkins restaurant in Jamesport, N.Y. is surrounded by 25 acres of rural land, allowing Chef Keith Luce to operate a true farm-to-table program. According to Luce, who took over the kitchen here in January 2010, 10 of the property’s acres are currently under agricultural development, including a five-acre produce garden and a similarly sized vineyard.

“We grow all of our own vegetables, including tomatoes, corn, peppers, lettuce, radishes and eggplant,” Luce said. “We’ve put in an herb garden and are raising pigs and chickens, which also provide fertilizer and, in the case of the poultry, rich, dark-yoked eggs. We’ll be bringing in goats and lambs next, so even more of our ingredients will be produced right here.”

The Jedediah Hawkins Inn has had six guest rooms since its restoration in 2005, and Luce and his staff of eight to prepare breakfasts for guests, as well as lunch and dinner for the general public. This adds up to a daily meal count of 75 to 150. As a chef who cares enough about ingredient quality and flavor to grow his own, Luce finds that sous vide production is instrumental to his cooking program.

“We cook low and slow a lot, because we’re trying to instill textures and flavors into the foods we serve,” he explained. “We use sous vide by preparing vacuum-sealed meal items in a water bath.” Examples include sous vide-prepared Kobe strip steak with beans and eggplant, seasoned with rosemary, and then finished in Luce’s wood-burning oven just before service. Champagne-poached chicken is sautéed with butter and lemon after sous-vide preparation.

Luce’s current line-up of kitchen equipment includes a pair of open-vat fryers, two undercounter refrigeration units and a freestanding range-top and griddle suite, as well as combi and wood-burning ovens.

Luce uses the combi oven primarily at low-temperature settings to slow-cook “just about every applicable item on the menu.” He also uses it to dehydrate foods, such as the excess vegetables his farming inevitably produces. “It gives an essence, like a tomato powder, a pea gel or an eggplant ‘raisin,’” he said. “These ingredients enhance the farm-to-table experience and let us add a dose of summer to dishes we serve all year long.”

Just as Luce & Hawkins offers guests a choice of two dining locations—a formally decorated dining room and an enclosed patio with views of the inn’s grounds and kitchen—Chef Luce offers two menus. His spring tasting menu included entrees such as local duckling ragu with ricotta gnocchi, accented with basil; and Shinnecock scallops with cauliflower, potato and almond, enhanced by lemon thyme. Recently, Luce has prepared enriched poached lobster with lovage and tarragon and offered sushi-grade tuna with shiso-

leaf tempura and borage leaf-flavored water gels.

On Luce & Hawkins’ a la carte menu, appetizers include pastrami-cured bluefish in mini open-faced reuben sandwiches, duck wings with cucumber-feta raita and chili-garlic sauce, steamed dumplings with pork belly and tuna, and a lobster roll on house-made milk bread.

When asked which additional pieces would best augment his productivity, Luce answered without hesitation.

“If I had the money and space, I would buy several more combis,” he said. “I’d also add a ‘thermo mix,’ which is a combination food processor and mixer that can heat or chill the foods being blended. I’d like some more atmosphere-extraction equipment, to help us expand our ability to capture foods’ seasonal essences.”

Read more: http://www.nrn.com/article/operations-action-luce-hawkins?page=0,1#ixzz1YWxzAyyb

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