Haute SpotHoliday Help Is In The House
Jason Weiner has food in his blood. The inventive chef has been in the restaurant business for nearly 30 years, after getting his start at the blockbuster seafood eatery Aqua in San Francisco with groundbreaking chefs George Morrone and Michael Mina. Since, he and partner Eric Lemonides have built a big business and a solid reputation with their farm-to-table offerings at Almond, with locations in Bridgehampton and Manhattan. Weiner, who has been invited to cook at the James Beard House in Manhattan a handful of times, is also a stalwart, and smiling, presence at local foodie benefits such as the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne and the Great Chefs Dinner at Hayground School
Earlier this year, Weiner and Lemonides opened up L&W Market next door to Almond in Bridgehampton. The casual eatery features prepared and grab-and-go items, small batch “farm-to-pantry” staples from its own line, popular artisanal selections from local purveyors, and a catering menu.
The busy chef says that he enjoys having the creative outlet that L&W Market brings, plus he loves to find new ways to bring good food into the world.
“We had the bandwidth, and we were bursting with ideas,” Weiner says of why he and Lemonides jumped on the space, a former antique shop, late last year when it became available. “And this was the perfect opportunity to open up the business in a new direction.”
One such direction is Weiner’s newest interest in pickling and fermentation. With L&W, he and Almond’s chef de cuisine, Jeremy Blutstein, have been able to launch their own line of kimchi. It’s called Kimchi Jews and it includes mayonnaise, marinade, dressing, seasoning and the like, made from locally sourced produce.
“It’s a fun outlet and we thought it would be cool,” he says of the expanded product line.
Local sourcing is key to great food, says Weiner. That’s why at his restaurants and at home, he likes to cook with produce and products grown and raised right here on the East End as often as he can. Items from favorite farms—such as Quail Hill, Amber Waves, Balsam Farms, Foster Farms, Mecox Bay Dairy, and the Milk Pail, among others—are highly valued components on his menus.
“That’s really the overreaching ethos: local growers and artisans, our friends and neighbors,” he says. “We’re like a family.”
Being a part of the community is very important to the chef. That’s why he and Lemonides host local events throughout the year and provide opportunities for outreach whenever they can. From themed dinners that benefit local charities to coat drives, such as the one they are hosting for Maureen’s Haven through the end of the year, helping those in need is another key component for their personal and professional philosophies.
“At the end of the day, we’re in the generosity business,” says Weiner. “We are blessed with a great group of people around us and we want to celebrate that any way we can, and we never want to take our successes for granted.”
That appreciation, of course, also includes the chef’s own family. Finding time to run a restaurant empire and dine with his wife, artist Almond Zigmund, for whom the restaurant is named, and 10-year-old daughter Rive, who “already has good instincts and some impressive knife skills,” can be tough, he acknowledges. Born from that simple fact of life, the busy chef understands why convenience sometimes wins the day when it comes to meal prep. And that’s why having more options at home is a great thing.
There are times when people don’t want to have the whole sit-down experience at a restaurant, or they don’t have the time to wait for a table, or to cook the decadent and delicious meal that they’d like to serve, he explains. That’s especially true in the summer or during the holidays, when houses are full of guests and time is a valuable resource, he adds.
“When you’re feeling the season, or when you want to eat our food but don’t want to venture out, we’re here,” he says of Almond’s expansion to L&W Market and its catering services. “This way you can have the Almond experience right at your house.”