Authors Posts by Joyce Wagner

Joyce Wagner

Joyce Wagner

Dan Sauer, chef and owner of 7a in West Tisbury, specializes in surprising sandwiches. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders, and is presenting its findings in a weekly series. Dan Sauer will be part of this year’s “Fresh off the Farm” event at the M.V. Food and Wine Festival. For more information, visit

Dan Sauer makes lunch an art form. A 1999 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA),

he worked at Oceana Restaurant in New York under the guidance of Chef Rick Moonen. Now, as part owner (with his wife, Wenonah) and executive chef of 7a, he uses locally sourced foods and elevates the lowly sandwich to an eyelid-dropping, intermittent-sighing experience. Located behind Alley’s in West Tisbury, 7a Foods opened in June 2010 and has become a lunch destination for foodie tourists and discriminating year-rounders. Dan Sauer also cooks a mean breakfast.

How did you come to be on the Island?

I was working at Oceana, and a friend of mine was working at Gramercy Tavern and told me about a sous-chef in New York named Marco [Canora] who had a restaurant [La Cucina] on the Vineyard in the summer. He was looking for a cook, so I got an interview with him and got the job. That was in the summer of 2000. I worked for him that whole summer, then went back to New York. My wife and I got married in 2004, and we moved back here about a year later. I was the chef for Outermost Inn in Aquinnah for Hughie Taylor.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started cooking when I was in high school. I worked in a place in Billings, Mont., called Walker’s Grill. That was my first cooking job. I wasn’t very college-bound, to say the least. I had to find something to appease my parents. Culinary school filled that. But from the first day I started, I sort of loved all the action, the pressure, the camaraderie, the s***-talking, and all the things that go on working in a restaurant.

How did you come to open 7a?

It was sort of the thing I did in the off-season at the Outermost for a couple of years. I would make fresh pastas and sauces, soups and sausage, and sell it. I actually started a little Facebook page for it. People would place their orders, and I would deliver them to their houses or a meeting point down-Island. I got interested in growing my own food at the Outermost. We had a garden there that I tended. They already had a garden, but I made it more kitchen-based. The year I left the Outermost Inn, I did the Farmer’s Market and some catering, all under the name 7a Farms. When the Alley’s space became available, I thought it would be a good fit for what I wanted to do. We signed the lease a year after that [end of June 2010].

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Several. A big one was at Oceana when I was catering a party. You’re always supposed to make a little bit extra. I thought everything would go fine and I told the chef I made extra and I didn’t. It was 10 sheet pans of sea bass, and I dropped the last one. We didn’t have any other sea bass in the house. I got yelled at quite a bit. We had to give them another kind of fish.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the past week?

Funny you asked. I’m doing a 21-day cleanse with my wife. You can’t eat any meat or protein for the first week. I just made a curried lentil stew last night, because on Day 8 you can start eating that. It’s about the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

Was it good because it was good or because you missed it?

A little bit of both, I think.

Favorite dish on your menu?

Right now it’s probably the Heirloom Tomato Sandwich. It’s got heirloom tomatoes and corn relish and goat cheese on our house-made focaccia. With North Tabor Farm greens. A lot of Island stuff. It’s a great time of year for vegetables.

What’s your favorite dish using fall ingredients right now?

My favorite would probably be butternut squash soup, and starting in about a month or so we’ll start doing a fall veggie melt, which is roasted fall vegetables with Gruyere cheese and honey aioli. That’s always a big hit.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Number one, without a doubt, is salt. You can’t cook without it. It’s not just a spice or seasoning. It actually changes the way your taste buds react to food. Proper seasoning is everything.

For number two, I’d probably say olive oil. Cooking with a good olive oil and finishing with a great olive oil is usually how I use it. It adds so much flavor.

Three? Pork. It’s just the best thing in the world. There’s so many things you can do with it. It’s hard to use a cow nose-to-tail because of its actual size, but I can get a half a pig and find ways to use it all throughout the restaurant.

Four? Garlic, I would say. The way you cut it — it can be a paste, it can be sliced, and you can slow-cook it in olive oil. It adds a lot of different flavors. You can utilize it in a lot of different ways.

The last one: acid, I would say. Either citrus or vinegar. It’s essential. It’s another thing that brings flavors together and makes things pop. Squeeze a lemon on something at the end. You may not taste the lemon, but it just brightens up the whole thing.

Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?

Probably my smoker. We make our housemade pastrami in it. I smoke garlic for mayonnaise that I make chicken salad with in the summer. I’m working on a smoked mustard right now for a homemade mustard, smoking the seeds before I make it.

What songs do you listen to when you’ve got the kitchen to yourself or don’t care who hears?

After we close, we definitely listen to the Wu-Tang Clan. During the day, when we’re open for business, we listen to every possible type of music you can imagine. We have Pandora radio stations and it’s a constant source of conversation and arguments and discussion. In the summer, we have a couple of workers from Jamaica, so reggae is definitely a part of it.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

Definitely involves spending time with my wife and two sons [ages 6 and 7] on the beach. Lobsters from Larsen’s and fishing with my oldest son.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Probably Bozeman, Mont. It would give me a reason to be able to go home on a regular basis. It’s not my hometown, but it’s my home state.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

Probably in jail.

by -

Women Empowered paid tribute to three of the Island’s movers and shakers last Saturday among the luscious flavors of brunch at the Harborview. In its third year, the Woman of the Year honorific salutes Island individuals whose work positively impacts Martha’s Vineyard. According to Vivian Stein, board president of Women Empowered, “These are three year-round women who have shown that they really want to make a difference.” This years’ honorees are Judy Crawford, chairman of the board of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard; Betsy Burmeister, recreational therapy director at Windemere; and Jesse Keller, director of Island programs and education for The Yard.

These women are all about movement — moving the Island forward, keeping seniors moving and engaged during the twilight years of their lives, and opening new creative paths for the Island’s youth.

Judy Crawford. (Courtesy Women Empowered)
Judy Crawford. (Courtesy Women Empowered)

Founded 12 years ago by Kay Flathers (who is no longer an Island resident), Women Empowered was formed to help women (and now also men) in crisis or otherwise stalled begin to press on again, whether it be by offering debt or career counseling, bestowing microloans on small start-ups, or providing tuition assistance. Its goals are mostly accomplished through workshops and one-on-one coaching by a group of volunteers. “Woman of the Year” honors those motivated who also strive, as Ms. Stein explains, “to increase the value the Island brings to people of all ages.”

“This year, they are from three different areas,” she continues, “which is very important. What they have in common is that they are motivated to help Islanders in their own way. Jesse Keller works a lot with children; Betsy Burmeister works with the elderly; and Judy Crawford, well, she’s spread all over. She was instrumental in getting the Y built.”

Betsy Burmeister, honored for her work as recreational therapy director at Windemere, found movement in her own life when she took on the position 17 years ago after working in her department for a year and a half. “When I first came to the department,” she recalls, “I was really kind of quiet and shy. The administrator talked to me about the position. I guess his faith in me gave me confidence I never had before. I really got into it, got excited about it, and wanted to make it a really good place for the residents to come.”

Since taking on the job, she has increased the volunteer staff from six to more than 120, in programs like animal visits, enlisting younger schoolkids to write bios of the patients, bringing high school students in, bringing in plays and musical acts and speakers. “We try to get the residents either out into the community or bring the community in to them,” she explains. “We really try to reach out.”

Judy Crawford’s bailiwick is getting others to move and shake. As chairman of the board of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard and a founder, member, or officer of other Island organizations, she gets ventures moving forward. When the Y was no more than isolated projects spread around schools and various venues, she helped develop a vision, set goals, enlisted resources, and facilitated the building of the centrally-located, community-oriented Island treasure that has become the Y.

Ms. Crawford explains, “I’m happy on the bigger scale, kind of organizing the long-range vision and then finding people who will take on the pieces that I know have to happen. That’s how the Y got built. It took 17 years. It started as a gleam in a bunch of people’s eyes, but it was a relatively small group that made it happen.”

Jesse Keller. (Photo Courtesy of Women Empowered)
Jesse Keller. (Photo Courtesy of Women Empowered)

Jesse Keller, the most recently settled of the honorees, is also the one most physically involved with movement. After coming to the Island in 2009 for an internship at The Yard, she moved here, took a part-time position there and another at Midnight Farm, and began to work movement magic on the Island. When David White took over the administration of The Yard in 2011 and began clearly defining roles and departments, Ms. Keller was offered the position of director of Island programs and education. This was an ideal situation for the young dancer, a graduate of the University of Ohio with a degree in dance education. “The organization was going through a lot of transition. There was a lot of growth [at The Yard] that was going to happen. I could see that and I wanted to be a part of that,” she explains.

Since then, Ms. Keller has formed movement workshops and programs for children at the Y, at The Yard, and recently, in the Island’s schools. “I am very driven about giving the Island this other language of dance,” she explains. “I do think it could really change our community and help give young people, help give adults, help give young adults all a voice that is very much needed in communicating with the arts.

“Movement is very empowering,” she insists. “I get to feel that every single day as a dancer. The least I can do is pass that on to others within the community.”

by -

A Movement Workshop for Island Schools.

Young dancers in a Yard program at West Tisbury Elementary. (Photo by Sofia Strempek) — Sofia Strempek

When some of the Island’s children return to school next month, they’ll find an additional “R” to the Three R’s – rhythm.

The 2013 camp Make Kids Dance was such a success that the Yard will be running dance programs in Island schools. (Photo by Sally Cohn)
The 2013 camp Make Kids Dance was such a success that the Yard will be running dance programs in Island schools. (Photo by Sally Cohn)

The Yard – Martha’s Vineyard’s premier proponent of dance – is introducing a program, “Making It,” into the curriculum of Island schools. Working with professional dance troupes from off-Island, kids will learn about movement and building choreography. Created by David White, The Yard’s Artistic and Executive Director, patterned after the Kids Make Dance Camp at The Yard, and administered by Jesse Keller (who teaches a similar workshop at the Y), it will be customized to fit the available time and needs of the participating schools.

While some may consider it frivolous to bring a movement workshop into the syllabi, the program is about much more than dance. Keller explains. “While (the students) definitely learn movement skills, this program is not meant to focus on teaching kids steps. It’s more about the kids’ creativity and how they can link movement to their everyday problem solving, life skills, literary skills, and things like that.”

She cites a week-long workshop they held at the high school in April. “We brought in David Parker and The Bang Group (from New York). They’re a tap and rhythm group but they also work a lot with props. We worked with the students on a piece that the (professional) group performed. They were in Velcro suits. Afterwards, we did our warm-up and split all the kids into teams. We gave them five pieces of different types of Velcro — suits that they could put on, Velcro-covered balls, things like that. The task was to, in a group, learn how to connect and disconnect these in three ways and in movement only.”

According to Keller, not only did the kids learn to work together creatively to accomplish the task and see the everyday objects in a different light, but kids who normally would not associate with each other laughed together and had fun. “They were working with kids that they probably wouldn’t be hanging out with at lunchtime,” Keller explains.

David White further elaborates, “We had kids who were on the autistic spectrum who had aides with them. In the case of those kids who were part of this process, the aides uniformly said that they had never seen their kids so immediately productive in that kind of situation – working in groups, socializing.”

“And the real beauty of it,” Keller adds, “was every single kid in the high school participated.”

Also, by bringing in pros like The Bang Group from New York, the Everett Company from Providence, Rhode Island, and H.T. Chen from Chinatown in New York, the programs expose students to artists who are making a living in their field – a boon to kids faced with career decisions.

After the April workshops (held at several Island schools), and the success of the summer camp, it wasn’t difficult to bring Island schools on board. The Yard already has Chilmark, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs Schools scheduled. “But,” says Keller, “we’re still having conversations with the (other) public schools, and the Charter School, figuring out what would work for them.” Some schools, like Edgartown, see it as fitting into their physical education curriculum, although it can be used to address particular subjects.

David White sees it as fitting into almost any area of the curriculum. He views movement as a potential science lab. “Dance is three things,” he explains, “Take one material thing, the body, take two immaterial things, space and time, and you mash them up. That’s a physics problem.” He also considers it a cultural lesson. “Chilmark School is looking to do an ancient China thing,” he relates, “And we’re bringing in H.T. Chen and his company from Chinatown.”

The program at Edgartown School will work with fifth and either seventh or eighth graders, one day a week, for one period, spread over ten week. Teachers will be consulted on a continuing basis throughout the program. “That’s where we’re gauging our success,” says Keller. “Being in very close contact with the teachers during the entire process.” They’ll be asked how it’s affecting their day, if they’re seeing changes in the students. If they’re seeing more focus. In addition, an in-depth questionnaire will be filled out by the teachers and principals at the end of the program.

During the April workshop, the physical education teacher asked the students to journal throughout the process and that helped shape the current program.

Ultimately, it’s fairly certain that every student will take away something from “Making It.” David White explains, “Movement and dance provides a different kind of creativity, a different kind of firing of neurons in the brain, that can stimulate all sorts of things in the intelligences and aptitudes of these kids in other areas.”

And it builds confidence. “It’s made so that every kid can succeed,” Keller says. “Every kid can do it.”

by -

They raise funds and explore timeless issues of communication.

The entire cast and production team of Spring Awakening. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Wendla desperately begs her mother to tell her how women conceive. Martha has no one to confide in that she is being sexually abused by her father. Moritz’s father greets the news that his son has failed in school with a selfish diatribe of what will people think. These characters from the musical “Spring Awakening,” teens in late 19th century Germany, struggle to find a sympathetic ear among the adults in their lives.

As do many of the Island’s teens.

Parents were an integral part of the production. Here, Barbara Binder and Michele Ortlip, Director.
Parents were an integral part of the production. Here, Barbara Binder and Michele Ortlip, Director.

Fortunately, a synchronicity of sorts has recently occurred on Island to address that very issue. A group of Island teens found relevance to their own lives and those of their friends in the Steven Slater/Duncan Sheik production of “Spring Awakening” — so much so that they pulled together to mount the production on the Vineyard. Meanwhile, a group of Island organizations drew together to form the Island Wide Youth Collaborative (IWYC) in response to the recent rise in awareness of stress and mental health issues beleaguering Island youth.

Recent MVRHS graduate Sam Permar relates how the Island production came about. “When I was in seventh grade, I saw the show in a national tour. I fell in love with it. Since then, it’s been my dream to do the show. It was the most thought-out and detailed expression of young adults’ emotions and experiences. In a lot of other shows they seemed more touched upon and not so real to me. But this was the first time I saw something that really stuck with me because of how real it was and how scary.”

The musical, a multiple Tony winner, follows the German teens through the isolation and issues of their lives, including homosexuality, teen pregnancy and abortion, sexual abuse, suicide, and the angst of dealing with blossoming bodies and sexuality. The issues these adolescents experienced more than 110 years ago (the current production was taken from a play written by Frank Wedekind in 1890 or 91) mirror the obstacles current teens face in their everyday lives.

In his senior year, Sam Permar approached his mother, psychologist Jane Dreeben, and suggested that, because his peers were all about the right age to populate the roles in the show, it would be a good time to produce the show on the Vineyard. Jane had also seen a touring production and agreed. “(MVRHS) did ‘Cats’ last spring and he (Sam) and a number of high school students were involved in that show. Part of what came out of that show is that there is really an extraordinarily large and capable group of actors and performers and singers. They could all sort of do everything. ‘Cats’ was, to a large degree, a student generated and run show. So we were like ‘what would it take to do it?’”

Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, a good friend of Sam’s and also a cast member of “Cats,” joined the conversations. Her mother, Michele Ortlip, enjoyed a long-time career in show business, casting many professional stage and film productions. “Jane Dreeben approached me,” Michele recalls. “She said, ‘How can we put this play together?’ We (Sam, Sarah, Jane, and Michele) discussed it and decided that even though it happens in the 1800s, the issues in the play of communication between parents and their children are very relevant.”

Early on, due mostly to Sam’s prodding, it was decided that the production would be a benefit. He modestly demurs, “It wasn’t only my idea. We decided to do it as a fundraiser within the first few weeks of the process. When we were talking about the creative side, we thought what if we somehow did the show as a benefit for adolescents who are going through these exact struggles on the Island? We could creatively express those struggles, but also benefit those people.”

“It seems as if all of the stars aligned for it to happen together,” Michele recalls. “While we were discussing the play and its relevancy to today’s youth and parents, M.V. Community Services, the Youth Task Force, the YMCA, and the regional school system were forming this coalition. We met with the Youth Task Force who immediately came on board as a sponsor.”

The coalition became the Island Wide Youth Collaborative (IWYC), whose goal is to coordinate services among providers of professional support for young people on the Island so that the services remain consistent, convenient, and Island-centered. What could have been more apropos than the Collaborative supporting the show and vice-versa?

Donations of rehearsal space, poster design, ticket printing and other incidentals came from the IWYC. Soon, it seemed, everyone began talking about the production, and other organizations became involved.

Sydney Johnson and her father, Music Director, Eric Johnson.
Sydney Johnson and her father, Music Director, Eric Johnson.

And, although the concept reached out to encompass the Island, it also became very much a family affair. Eric Johnson, professional musician and owner/operator of Tisberry Frozen Yogurt and father of Sydney Johnson (cast as Thea), volunteered to be music director at his busiest time of the year. Sam Permar’s older sister Tessa choreographed, with Sophia Nelson (who played Ilse) assisting. Sam acted as assistant director to Michele. Darby Patterson’s (she played Martha) father, Geoff, designed and worked lights.

However, even with a proliferation of adult involvement, it remained the kids’ show. “The whole process was student driven,” Jane relates. “The young people did most of the process of creating the show. Michele and I very consciously asked them to do a lot. At times we functioned more as mentors than leaders. They were involved in decisions on every level.”

More importantly, parents and teens were communicating. Given the controversial and troubling nature of the subject matter, parents of the participating teens were called to alert them of the shocking scenes that are inherent in the play and many discussions were held during rehearsals.

Barbara Dworkin Binder and Robert Dutton played all of the adult roles and few of them were sympathetic characters. Barbara, lured out of a ten-year retirement from acting, explains, “You had a heightened awareness of everyone who was on stage with you because of the communication. Some of the material was difficult to watch other people do, and to act. We felt terrible for the characters we were playing. You want to elevate your children. These parents were squashing and shaming. We always had a lot of open discussion about how we were feeling, why we were feeling that way. It’s hard to understand the kinds of things some of the characters went through and especially for the teenagers to understand this kind of cruelty.”

Michele concurs. “It fostered a lot of discussion with our kids and the kids that were around. During rehearsals there was a lot of, ‘What is this scene about?’ I would say there was a lot of growth.”

At this point, being so close to the production’s end, it would be difficult to project how the play affected communication between the teens and adults in the audience, but undoubtedly it opened some doors. And maybe, just maybe, the play’s support for the IWYC won’t just be financial.

Chef James McDonough entered his second season at Lambert's Cove Inn, Farm, and Restaurant this summer. — Chris Riger

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders and are presenting our findings in a weekly series.

There’s something very welcoming about a restaurant with wainscoting, bookshelves, and French doors. Park it in the middle of a farm, and you almost feel as if you’re dining in a cottage in the English countryside. New this summer are chickens, two goats, and executive chef, James McDonough. On the Island since 1996, McDonough long ago mastered local cuisine, and he delights in the herbs and veggies grown right on the premises. Once the two teenaged goats come of age, watch for menu items featuring chevremade right in his kitchen.

How did you come to be on the Island?

In 1996 I answered an ad in The New York Times for an executive chef for the Beach Plum Inn. I had just come up from the Caribbean. My wife and I were down in St. Thomas for four years. We had our first two children and realized we needed help, so we came back to the States and I met with Paul Darrow [then owner of the Beach Plum Inn]. Funny enough, he’d gotten my résumé and had eaten at three restaurants that I worked at over the years pretty much at the time I was there — including in St. Thomas. All those coincidences led us to the thought that there was something going on and maybe we should meet. So, we met in New York City and he went through the rest of his interviews and I got the job.

How and when did you start cooking?

At age 14. I started out dishwashing at a small mom and pop place and pretty much right from the get-go started cooking to help them out — as most dishwashers do. By age 17, my senior year, I was pretty much running the place — opening and closing it. I don’t want to overplay that. It was an eatery more than a restaurant. Short order stuff.

But, I just fell into it. I love the adrenaline of cooking. I love the challenge of it, the fast pace of it.

How did you come to be working at Lambert’s Cove Inn?

[Owners] Scott and Kell approached me last summer with the idea of maybe working here. I helped them out a little bit last summer. Over the winter we talked about it. When I left Beach Plum, after 16 years of the 80-hour week, seven months on, five months off, I yearned for a more normal pace of life. And so I resigned there actually on New Years’ Day three years ago and hooked up with Jean Dupon, who was developing La Cave (in Vineyard Haven). I spent two years working with him — breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I was able to set it up and hire and train staff and develop the menu so I was able to leave at five o’clock and come home and have a balanced life.

In that time frame, Jean was looking to sell, so things were a little unsure how much longer he would run it.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Oh, my gosh, yes! One that stands out more than anything else was when I was apprenticing at La Fromagerie my first year. It took me six months to work myself up to where I could be trusted to work on the line. One of the things the executive chef there, Imon, did was to teach me to make the paté en croute. It was a three-day process. It was a really wonderful experience. However, the first time I was allowed to do it on my own — you start it out at 450 degrees and when the top begins to brown you turn it down to 350 — I forgot to turn it down. I burnt six of them, which is about 80 orders. I took two days to get it to that point. Needless to say, Imon was not happy with me. There was absolutely nothing you could do to salvage it. It was a lesson I will never forget.

Is there a dish or meal you prepared that was part of a very special occasion?

That same paté we entered into a food show at the New York Coliseum in 1982 and it won a blue ribbon. Imon came to trust me to make them again, and I mastered them. I came in on my own time just to spend extra time with these things.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

My wife makes this homemade pizza with fresh garden vegetables, feta cheese, basil, garlic, and local greens. For something I don’t do — for something I really enjoy because I’m not doing it — it’s that.

Favorite dish on your menu?

Just one? Grilled pesto-crusted Atlantic salmon, tri-colored vegetable orzo, and heirloom tomato ragout. [The ragout] is kind of light and simple. The basil comes right from our garden.

Favorite dish you cook for your wife for a romantic evening at home?

Steamed Menemsha lobster.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomato, house-made demi-glacé, and sea salt.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

My Vita-Prep (commercial food processor). It’s just so versatile for mixtures like soups and sauces.

Using local Vineyard produce, fish, game, etc., describe the perfect Martha’s Vineyard feast.

Bouillabaisse. I use a mélange of all the seafood that comes right from here — lobsters, little necks, scallops, striped bass, mussels. Island tomatoes, Island herbs. Accompanying that, a salad of mixed greens. For dessert, fresh mint from the garden and fresh berries with a white Chantilly cream.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

Pack the cooler and go to the beach. Surfing. Swimming. My wife and kids, picnic, cooler, beach all day.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

St. Thomas. I’d go back down to the Caribbean. I miss it — parts of it. One of the major reasons for leaving was having the two kids and all the trials and tribulations of that. Getting all the things you needed. It doesn’t have to be St. Thomas. Any of those places down there.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

You know, I never really thought about that. Something with my hands. Something creative. I could see myself in landscaping. If I had a pipe-dream it would be as a professional surfer. I love the ocean, but never had the talent for that. So, a gardener or landscaper.

Chilmark Tavern chef Jenna Sprafkin. — Jenna Sprafkin

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders and are presenting our findings in a weekly series.

Jenna Sprafkin, executive chef at Chilmark Tavern, speaks with a great deal of enthusiasm about her work, which did not become a vocation until after college. Her ambitions were originally in mass-media but during tapings of food shows she found that she was more interested in the food production than the technology. Ironically, it was the Internet that brought her to our shores.

How did you come to be on the Island?

Jenna Petersiel, the owner of Chilmark Tavern, was my camp counselor in sleep-away camp in New Hampshire in 1991. I loved camp and spent several years as a kid and adult there. Four years ago I found her again on Facebook. I frequently post pictures of what I’m cooking on Facebook. In February of this year I got a message from her saying that she lost her chef and was looking for a new one. I went online and Googled Chilmark Tavern. It was in the realm of the food that I do and believe in. I called her and she invited me out in March to cook for some people. I spent an incredible two and a half days on-Island and she hired me.

How and when did you start cooking?

As an amateur since I was a little kid. My great-aunt owned a restaurant and when we visited, we would do cooking projects at her house. When I was 12, we got cable TV, including the Food Network. Both of my parents cooked, but not very good. One day I watched Bobby Flay make a red pepper coulis and I thought, “I can do that.” My parents came home from work and I had stuff all over the kitchen. I mean, all over. They said, “What did you do?” I said, “I made red pepper coulis.” They said, “What are we going to do with it?” I said, “Eat it?”

After that, I started experimenting. When they would cook, I would make suggestions. But I didn’t think of it as a career choice. I didn’t go to culinary school. I got my degree in Television and Radio at Ithaca College. After college I was in an internship with a part of the Food Network. I realized I was more interested in the food than the production. Whenever there was downtime, I would find myself hanging out with the food stylist. People said I should go to culinary school. When I was 21, I went to the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City – a nine-month program for career changers. That’s when my professional career started.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Two or three years ago I spent a summer as a private chef on a yacht out of Newport. We were sailing from Newport to Cuttyhunk. I was told that the [children of the owner] had sweet tooths, so, the first day, I made a chocolate cake. The crossing was really rough and I felt sick, but the captain kept assuring me that that was as bad as it would get. That was not the truth.

From the motion of the boat, the cake toppled face-down off the counter and onto the floor. I managed to scrape the frosting that hit the floor off the cake and make more. While the boat was rocking and I was seasick. But they never knew.

Is there a dish or meal you prepared that was part of a very special occasion?

I spent six months at the Viceroy Hotel in Anguilla cooking for celebs in private villas. One of the people I cooked for was Nas, the rapper. I was a big fan and only saw him before in his rapper personae. The second day I was there, he came down in his pajamas and fuzzy slippers. He said to me, “Yo, chef! Those crab cakes last night were bangin’!”

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

We have a good relationship with Chilmark Store. They sometime leave us leftover pizza. I was working nonstop every day and three nights ago at 1 am, I ate a piece of pepperoni pizza heated up. It was the perfect food. It was just what I needed at that moment. I washed it down with a Polar Grapefruit Seltzer.

Favorite dish on your menu?

Our menu changes a little bit every day according to what’s available and what I feel like doing. Right now we have a scallop dish with Anson Mills Red Flint Grits, seared local scallops with pork belly (cured and braised in brown sugar, maraschino cherry juice and coffee), reconstituted dried cherries and local spring onions from North Tabor Farm cooked in whey from our in-house made ricotta.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Salt, fresh herbs, high quality olive oil (from Northern Italy or Greece), fennel (in any form), and Aleppo pepper (from Syria and Turkey).

Your favorite kitchen tool?

I have a really awesome spurtle that someone made for me. It’s a wooden spoon without the bowl. It’s great for stirring things like polenta and curd because it gets into the corner of the pot so things don’t get burned. I’m a fan of all wooden utensils.

Do you have a favorite kitchen tip or shortcut?

Have everything prepped before cooking so you can focus on cooking, not gathering.

Using local Vineyard produce, fish, game, etc., describe the perfect Martha’s Vineyard feast.

I’d start with oysters from Emmett Carroll in Menemsha, pairing with a mignonette (a sauce made with wine vinegar, pepper, shallots or sweet onions, and salt). We’ve been getting fluke from Stanley Larson, veggies from North Tabor Farm and Morning Glory (summer squash, snap peas, fresh herbs). I’d make some sort of hand-rolled pasta with spinach and little neck clams. I’d make sausage with pork from Grey Barn. Baby kale from North Tabor Farm. For dessert, fresh local fruit in a pie or shortcake.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

I’m looking forward to having one! If and when I do, a non-food related book, a sparkling rosé, a sandwich from 7a, an umbrella, blanket, and a quiet spot on the beach where I can be alone.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Practically, it would be Menemsha because I’m such a control freak. I would want it close by. If I were a dreamer, I would pick northern California, probably Sonoma County, mostly for its produce. Some of the most incredible vegetables grow there and their growing season is year-round.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

I would be a radio DJ. I worked in public radio when I was in high school and had my own show in college. I love radio. But I love cooking more.

The Chilmark Tavern is located at 9 State Rd. in Chilmark. 508-645-9400;

Joseph Monteiro, executive chef at Atlantic Fish and Chop House in Edgartown. — Photo Courtesy of Joseph Monteir

The Island has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders and we are presenting our findings in an ongoing series.

You can’t miss it. During lunch, it’s a cool oasis. At night, it dazzles. And it’s right on the water. Atlantic Fish & Chop House overlooks the harbor in Edgartown with rooms inside and out that whisper summer comfort and fine cuisine. They major in steak and seafood, and executive chef Joe Monteiro aces both. Short and succinct in conversation, he’s long on creativity when it comes to his cuisine.

How did you come to be on the Island?

I got pursued by the owner of the Atlantic. He made me a job offer. I was between things. He flew me up here in 2010 and we talked. I cooked for him and I had the job.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started cooking with my mom in the kitchen when I was pretty little. We have a huge family and [there was] a lot of work in the kitchen. My dad cooked also. Both of them. One of my uncles owned a restaurant and I used to work with him when I was 13 or 14. I never really did anything, just helped him get the business started. I started washing dishes [professionally] at 17, then started cooking right after and never left.

I went to Bergen [Community College] in Ridgewood, New Jersey, for 22 months of hotel and restaurant management.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

When I first started cooking, I was in charge of most of the station set-up in the restaurant and making all the soups and sauces. I asked one of my new dishwashers to go downstairs and get me flour. The flour bin was in the same room as the Fryolator cleaner. He brought up about five pounds of Fryolator cleaner instead of flour. I made soup and I put it into the cooler. The next morning I walked into the restaurant and the chef took me into the cooler. He said, “I want you to take a look at this.” I walked in there and the thing was bubbling. It looked like a volcano inside of a five-gallon bucket. I couldn’t figure it out for a good while until I really stopped and thought about it. I grabbed the dishwasher and went downstairs with him. I was like, “So where was the flour?” “Right there!” I was like, “Noooo.”

It put me back in the weeds, because I had to make one soup for that day and another for the following day.

Is there a dish or meal you prepared that was part of a very special occasion?

We did a golf tournament in California for a lot of NFL stars. A lot of Hall of Famers, if you will. I golfed with those guys. It was a lot of fun.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

I don’t remember, to be honest with you. Everything I ate in the past week was pretty good.

Favorite dish on your menu?

My dishes are like kids. I treat them all the same. I love them all equally. But, probably one of our new dishes. We’re increasing our new menu by about 20 percent. A lot of raw, a lot of cooked, a lot of stuff that people on the Island are really not doing. We like to innovate and go to another level.

What do you cook for a romantic evening with your girlfriend?

You need to ask her. She loves food even more than I do. To please her is fairly easy. We’ve been cooking a lot of different stuff. It’s usually me cooking. She sits on the counter and we share wine together. I cook, I make her taste. We keep laughing.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Salt, salt, salt, and salt, and a little more salt. I’m a firm believer that salt brings up the flavor in everything. Without salt everything is just bland. I don’t believe in people seasoning the food for me. If you come to my restaurant and season the food, it tells me that I’m not doing my job. So, I push my people to season everything we do to the limit. Just to the edge where it’s just perfect. Some people seem to think it’s over the edge, but 9.9 times out of 10, I’m right on the money.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

My pencil — which is always behind my ear. I am a pencil freak. Nine times out of ten, if you walk into my restaurant, I will have my pencil behind my ear. All my notes, if I need to mark off tickets, everything is done with a pencil.

Other than that, I think I use about every piece of equipment equally.

Using local Vineyard produce, fish, game, etc., describe the perfect M.V. feast.

Maybe different kinds of baked oysters with different stuffs. I cook the way my mood is usually. If I’m very hyper you can tell. My food is very aggressive. If I’m mellow, my food is kind of subtle. If I’m frustrated, sometimes it’s darker than normal. For the most part, my food is very happy.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

I don’t have a lot of those. Sometimes a walk on [my girlfriend’s] private beach. I spend as much time with her as I can.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Maybe Portugal. I’m part Portuguese. [There’s a] lot of seafood influence. A lot of water and stuff like that.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

I would probably be a car junkie. I love cars. I would probably be a racecar driver or something like that.

— Alison Shaw

The barbecue season is upon us once again, and Islanders need look no further than local farms and fish markets, and even our own backyards, for ingredients to throw on the grill. We asked local chefs for their tips and takes on what food to grill, where to find it, and preparation how-to’s in order to make the most of the Island’s bountiful harvest.

Max Eagan of Isola

Max Eagan, chief executive chef for the restaurant portion at the new Isola in Edgartown (located in the former Lattanzi’s spot), is an avid fisherman and likes to cook his catch over an open flame. “I keep a small charcoal grill in my Jeep for most of the summer,” he tells us. “You never know when the time comes for a beach lunch, especially as a fisherman.” He prefers charcoal over gas because, “It really makes you connect with the food. You’re cooking more, tending to the coals, controlling heat, and you can always throw some wood chips on there to get a real nice smoky flavor.”

Scup is his first choice for local catch on the grill. They’re easy to catch, prep, season, and can be barbecued whole. “Today,” he says, “I did basil, garlic, crushed red pepper, smoked sea salt, and olive oil.”

Other seafoods found on Max’s grill include clams and scallops. For clams, he recommends, “Dig them, rinse them, and put them on the grill until they pop open. Dip into melted butter and enjoy. Nothing is simpler, more rewarding, and delicious.”

He also provides a tip for grilling scallops without them sticking to the grill. Blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water, then immerse in ice water. Pat them dry, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on an oiled grate.

Max takes advantage of other Island bounty. He likes local peaches on the grill “…especially if there is some prosciutto laying around to accompany it.” And he likes to split a chicken from The Good Farm and toss that on the fire. “Jefferson Munroe really raises his birds well,” he says. “Nothing beats a local bird. The taste is superior.”

In short, Max is all about locally produced and caught food. “Our Island provides us with tons of beautiful and free foods,” he says. “To not take advantage of them would be a shame.”

Pete Smyth of Slice of Life

When Pete Smyth is not overseeing the menu at Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs, he’s a dedicated family man. Barbecuing enhances that. “I often go to Morning Glory Farm and The Net Result to get stuff when I have time off,” he says. “I usually look for something to grill. I think it tastes better and I can be outside with my kids while I’m doing it.”

And what does he buy to feed a wife and two daughters? “If you’re talking savory, it’s lobster or any local shellfish.” He’ll also opt for chicken or swordfish with a simple marinade made with equal parts of soy sauce and maple syrup seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Like many of the Island chefs, he prefers charcoal or wood for grilling because of its effect on the flavor of the food. “But,” he admits, “usually due to time, I use gas.”

He recommends having the grill hot and clean. Instead of seasoning the grate by swabbing with an oiled towel, he oils the bristles on his cleaning brush.

And, like a true doting dad, he treats the kids to ice cream. “We are blessed to have so many purveyors of the fine treat,” he says.

Justin Melnick of The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn

After the chaos of cooking at The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown, Justin Melnick likes to take it easy. “Grilling outdoors in the summer should always be fun,” he says. “The food will always taste better on a great day with friends and family.

“Keep it simple,” he continues. “There are lots of great summer vegetables, meats, and fish out there. Find the best ingredients, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and don’t overcook them.

He especially enjoys local sea bass grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and served simply with grilled heirloom tomatoes and a cucumber and mixed green salad. For the Island’s fresh local corn, he always grills it in the husk, whether on the barbecue at home or at his work at The Terrace. And he raves about the tomatoes and corn grown on the Island. “You can’t go wrong in the summer,” he says.

He also recommends a simple recipe for the grill – littleneck clams, rinsed and purged, and placed directly on the grill on medium heat until they open. Melt some butter with lemon and herbs, toss together in a bowl (shells and all) and enjoy.

Justin prefers grilling in the comfort of his own backyard, with a cocktail or two for encouragement. The gas grill is his choice “only because I have used it my whole life,” he says. “It’s easier to control the temperature and ready when I need it to be.”

Ron “Puppy” Cavallo of Soigne

The chef usually referred to as “Puppy” is part-owner and cook for Soigne, the market with up-scale carry-out meals on Upper Main Street in Edgartown. He considers grilling such an integral part of cooking that he’s had a built-in barbecue installed off his home kitchen. And while he prefers gas for convenience, he admits that many dishes need the enhancement of charcoal. “Jerk chicken, for instance,” he cites. “It needs the slow smoke.”

He maintains, however, that you don’t need a built-in grill for the best barbecuing and perhaps the great outdoors can be a better choice in the summer. “Grill everything outside,” he suggests. “All meats, fish, veggies, and potatoes. No mess or added heat to the kitchen.”

For ingredients, Puppy enjoys the bounty of the Island, especially fresh local corn, lobster, and freshly caught striped bass. He likes to steam the corn, then blacken it on the grill. He cuts off the kernels for a fresh grilled corn and feta salad. He enjoys the bass stuffed with just-picked garden herbs and grilled whole. And for prep, it’s a time-saver for him to do the preliminary work in his kitchen at Soigne and finish the entrée on the grill at home.

A simple recipe that he recommends is “Wine Bottle or Beer Can Chicken.” Here’s how he makes it:

Rub your chicken with your favorite spice. His favorite for this is hot smoked paprika, garlic powder, sea salt, and cayenne pepper. Empty half the beer or wine into a shallow pan and put two or three garlic cloves in the bottle or can. Set the bottle or can through the cavity of the chicken, standing it upright in the shallow pan. Make sure the chicken doesn’t tip over, place it in the grill, close the lid, and cook to perfection. The liquid remaining in the bottle or can with the garlic helps to flavor the cavity of the chicken.

Of course, it’s best made with locally raised chickens.

by -
Puppy, owner of Soigne in Edgartown, started his restaurant career at The Seafood Shanty when he was 12. — Soigne

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these culinary wonders and share their stories each week.

Ron Cavallo, known as “Puppy,” is owner-operator of Soigne with partner Diana Rabaioli. The renowned, upscale gourmet market is located at 190 Main Street in Edgartown. Slight and wiry of build, Puppy possesses just the right amount of manic energy to keep the quality of the prepared foods excellent and customers coming back season after season. For more information on Soigne, call 508-627-8489.

How did you come to be on the Island?

I was born here. My grandfather came here in 1938 to open up a kitchen at the [Edgartown] Yacht Club. Every year he would get lonely for his family and bring them down from New York during the seasons. I forget how many months a year he would stay. So, I was born here during one of those seasons because there was a hurricane. We were kind of trapped here. Last day of high school, I came back to the Island, and I’ve been here ever since.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started working at The Seafood Shanty for Bob Carroll when I was 12. I worked there for 11 years. I started as a dishwasher my first year and worked my way up to chef. Bob Carroll was my mentor. He sent me to school at the University of Mass. I took the hotel/restaurant program. Eventually he sold the restaurant, and I went on to be a chef.

How did you come to be at Soigne?

I worked in Boston, Florida, New York. I worked at the Waldorf Astoria, and I worked several restaurants on the Island. I was chef in all of these places, then I decided to open up my own place after so many years. Soigne opened 30 years ago. Isn’t that amazing? I reflect back on it sometimes because it’s just been a blur. Thirty years. I just can’t believe it. I always considered myself to be the new kid on the block. Thirty years later, I’m one of the oldest and longest owner-operated food businesses in town. There’s a handful of us left.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Of course. Who hasn’t? When I was working at the Waldorf Astoria, the king of Saudi Arabia was having room service up in his suite. I think there were maybe 10 of his subjects with him. The cook in the kitchen made him lamb. The king had no teeth. Don’t ask me why the king of Saudi Arabia, with all his money… I think it was [King] Faisal. This was in 1979 or 80. He had no teeth so we had to purée everything.

It was too salty. The room service captain came down and said, ‘Oh, my God, the king didn’t eat. And if the king doesn’t eat, no one eats. This is going to be an international disaster.’ So I whipped up another dish — lamb — puréed it of course, and put no salt in. The king accepted it, everybody ate, everybody was happy, and the price of oil did not go up.

Was there an occasion when a dish of yours was part of a large, important event?

I made fried chicken for Muhammad Ali during training for Joe Frazier. Do you believe it? That’s what he wanted. Fried chicken. And he was in training!

What is the single best bite you’ve eaten in the past week?

I had curry in India. It was fabulous. The blend of spices they put on there was phenomenal.

What is your favorite dish on your menu?

Occasionally we make osso bucco: braised lamb shank or veal in red wine. So delicious. That’s my weakness.

What do you cook for a romantic evening with your girlfriend?

Broiled lobster. It’s her favorite. I make a stuffing with little pieces of seafood, oysters, and Ritz Cracker crumbs.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Saffron, curry (that I make), Himalayan salt (the pink stuff, the best salt on earth), garlic, shallots.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

A paring knife. I like to make vegetable flowers.

Using local Vineyard produce, fish, game, etc., describe the perfect MV Feast.

Bouillabaisse, using fresh local shellfish, in tomato saffron broth base.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

If I had a day off, I would work in the herb garden.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Italy. Probably Rome. I have friends in Rome and I know that Italy is up-and-coming in the convenience food world. My cousin was telling us that now his wife wants take-out all the time where everyone used to cook at home. So I think we’d be getting in on the ground floor.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

A writer. Maybe a poet. I’ve done things like that.

Harbor View Hotel executive chef Nathan Gould loves cooking with Vineyard bounty. — File photo by Eli Dagostino

Martha’s Vineyard has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these culinary wonders and share their stories.

Nathan Gould is a busy guy. He’s the executive chef for both of the Harbor View Hotel’s eateries and catering. After obtaining a BS in Culinary Nutrition, an MS in Sports Nutrition and Kinesiology, and spending a summer in wine school in Germany, he traveled extensively. Besides employment as chef at many restaurants, he’s worked as a private chef. He arrived on the Island two and a half years ago from Princeton, N.J. His gluten-free Smokey Vineyard Quahog Chowder recently took first place at the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group’s fundraising event.

How did you come to be on the Island?

I was actually called by a close friend who was the food and beverage director [at the Harbor View] at the time. He informed me about the Island and the hotel and how beautiful it was. I started off as the Executive Sous Chef. This will be my third season.

How and when did you start cooking?

I started cooking as a hobby, getting really interested in food at around the age of 11. It was with my mother and grandmother. They were great home cooks, pretty much both from a strong French background. I was intrigued with what they would make — mostly soups and stocks. A lot of old-style French cuisine. I would ask them for the recipes and purchase the ingredients and try to replicate those recipes. My mother and my grandmother let me help around the kitchen all the time. They were very influential people.

Have you ever had a major cooking disaster?

Before this position, when I was younger, I was running a catering company in Princeton, New Jersey. We had a 150-person sit-down dinner — an outside event. Right before the dinner was about to go out our ovens completely went down. We completely lost electricity. We had to light about six or seven charcoal grills and fix mashed potatoes, grill all the meat, and cook all the vegetables on top of the grills. It doesn’t seem that hard, but when you have to feed 150 people, it’s very difficult.

Is there a dish or meal you prepared that was part of a very special occasion?

One of my greatest accomplishments, as far as a celebration for someone, was: there’s a very famous historical man back in Princeton, New Jersey, Dr. Scheide [William H. Scheide, musician, philanthropist, humanitarian, and noted collector of rare books] and every year we would do this grand gala event for his birthday. They would invite musicians and politicians and all these high-end connections. They would fly in an orchestra from Germany and this orchestra would play “Happy Birthday” probably 20 different ways in every style of Bach because that was his favorite composer. We would have this amazing party and this big dinner for him. He actually just turned 99. This is the second year I haven’t been able to be back and do that event for him. It was a great event, very special.

What’s the best single bite you ate in the last week?

A good friend and fisherman brought me some local perch and the perch were full of roe. We smoked two roe sacs, sprinkled on Maldon sea salt — one of the most light and flakey sea salts — and olive oil and ate that with grilled flatbread.

Favorite dish on your menu?

Currently, it would have to be our pork shank, which is a hind shank cut. It’s slow braised for eight hours. We serve it with a cauliflower purée, roasted cauliflower, capers, and a pan pork jus — which is just a reduction of all the beautiful pork stock we have from braising.

What do you cook for a romantic evening with your girlfriend?

She loves tuna, so hopefully I could get some fresh bluefin tuna off the Cape if they’re coming around soon. She loves good sushi and sashimi, which we don’t usually get too much of on the Vineyard. And she loves Thai food. I would probably do something with fresh local tuna for a first course and then do something with homemade noodles with a little Thai influence with the ingredients — she loves coconut milk and lemongrass — for the second course.

For dessert, anything with fresh mangoes. I would probably do a fresh mango sorbet with shaved frozen coconut and tapioca. I don’t normally cook those flavors, but she’s from an island [St. John, VI], so if I were to be making something special, it would be influenced by island flavors.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Safflower oil, duck fat, Maldon sea salt, fresh eggs, and fresh herbs.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

Definitely my knife. I use a 10” Masa Hiro. Without it you’re pretty much lost.

Using local Vineyard produce, fish, game, etc., describe the perfect MV Feast.

I would definitely start the meal off with Honeysuckle Oysters grown by Nick Turner. We use them in the restaurant and we’ve never had a better oyster than his.

For the second course I would definitely take a mixed bowl of greens from Thimble Farms, including mustard greens, micros, and his baby lettuce mix and cover the greens with fresh citrus olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper.

The third thing I would do is a slow-roasted chicken from The Good Farm or Cleveland Farm and serve with vegetables and rough greens from one of our surrounding farms like Slip Away or Morning Glory.

For dessert, we made an amazing dessert that we featured in the fall — a Russian olive shortcake.

What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?

Going on a hike with my girlfriend. Usually in the summer when we get a day off together, I like to go spear fishing for sea bass. We go to one of the points off Menemsha or Great Rock and go spearfishing. We actually did one last year where we spearfished and we took the fish to Stanley’s [Larsen’s] fish shop and he cooked it up and we ate it on the beach with a glass of wine.

If it could be anywhere in the world, where would you open your second restaurant?

Probably in the Monterey region of California. I would love to own a small farm with a 30-seat restaurant — somewhere that would be agriculturally sustainable, hopefully in a year-round growing climate. And access to people who are interested in greatly prepared food and want to support the local movement.

What would you be if you weren’t a chef?

A nutritionist and sports trainer, because that’s what my other degree is in. I would be working with clients, training them physically and assisting with their diets. That’s something I’ve always been really interested in.