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.
Danny Finger arrived on the Island in 2008 and has been the chef at Lucky Hank’s in Edgartown since its inception a little over a year ago.
How did you come to be on the Island?
After college, I was working in Sarasota, Florida, at a restaurant called The Cork. One of the chefs knew the executive chef at the Harbor View and he sent me up here. I could make more money here.
How did you come to work for Lucky Hank’s?
I worked with Doug at the Harbor View. He’s the owner of Lucky Hank’s. We got along really well. He noticed that the food was really good when I was cooking. At the beginning of the summer before last, he called me and told me he had acquired a property and was opening a restaurant here. He wanted me to be the chef. It didn’t actually come together until after the season — mid-October. So, now we’ve been open a year and three months.
How and when did you start cooking?
I started cooking professionally when I was 14. I had to go to my guidance counselor in high school to get a permit to work. I worked at a little barbecue restaurant across town from where I lived in Richmond, Virginia.
What sparked your interest?
My mother and my grandmothers were really good cooks. Also, I traveled a lot when I was a kid. My parents took me with them to Europe and China. Also, I watched a lot of Emeril Lagasse and Julie Child when I was a kid. I made an apple swan when I was 13. There’s a video you can watch of Jacques Pepin making it for a decoration for a fruit platter.
What was the first thing you cooked?
My mom used to make me this thing she called “Hot Milk Toast” when I got sick. It was basically warm milk with buttered toast chopped up in it and a poached egg. I must have been six or seven. I poached the egg in the milk and chopped up the toast and threw it in there. It’s nice. It’s weird, but it’s nice. It warms you up.
What was the best food you ate in the last week?
We make these buttermilk biscuits at the restaurant. I had one yesterday with a spoonful of creamy sausage gravy and some fried chicken breast.
Describe the perfect Martha’s Vineyard feast.
I’d probably start with some kind of nice chowder. Maybe with a local white fish, Morning Glory corn. Some bacon. Chowder’s a big thing around here. I love it. I’d make a great big salad with some of the beautiful greens I’ve been getting around here. They have wonderful chickens coming from The FARM Institute. Really, really fresh. I would probably do a wholesome roast chicken with stuffing and lots and lots of root veggies. For dessert, I’d make a pie with some fresh cranberries and local apples.
What are your top five indispensable ingredients?
Garlic, shallots, scallions, duck fat, and butter. You can take those and make anything taste delicious.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
My commercial blender — my Vitamix. It will blend things that would be unblendable at home. It has a lot of power.
What do you have planned for the Lucky Hank’s Valentine’s Day menu?
It’s a three-course dinner. We’re going to start with either lobster bisque or a crab, fennel, asparagus, and blood orange salad. As the main course, we’re going to do a bone-in veal chop with a foyot sauce (béarnaise made with a veal reduction) over fingerling potatoes and candy-striped beets or bouillabaisse — a saffron fish stew. For dessert, either Bananas Foster or red velvet soufflé with a white chocolate ganache.
What is your idea of a perfect day off on Martha’s Vineyard?
In my ideal world, I would be out on Cape Poge with some friends and a kayak and my four-wheel-drive vehicle. A small grill, and maybe some fresh fish.
Lucky Hank’s is located at 218 Upper Main St. in Edgartown. For more information, call 508-939-4082 or visit luckyhanksmv.com.