The Peppered Chef – Jay Lippin
What you already know about Jay Lippin is that he is Executive Chef at Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant in Chappaqua, NY. But what you might not realize is that he is truly zealous about farm to table and procuring locally.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Jay (“just call me Jay”) recently at the Kittle House to talk about his philosophy on all things food. It’s simple really: Nothing tastes better than ingredients straight from the source, whether we’re talking vegetables, cheeses, meats, or fish. Jay joined us in the dining room with his “book,” an impressive collection of purveyors located in the Hudson Valley, a veritable “good food farmer’s network.”
It is not unusual for Jay to hear of a source, like Beaverkill Trout Hatchery in upstate New York, and go there, see the operation, meet the people involved, and listen to their story. The Shaver Family has owned this operation for five generations and that pride produces an amazing product.
Along with information on each purveyor, the farm book includes recent winter discussions with farmers for spring plantings, site inspections of potential local sources, previous order history, and notes for future sources still required. His attention to detail and personal relationships, and the connections he’s made in the area, are what make his cuisine so delectable.
Jay is chef friend to the local area farmers, like Deb Taft at Mobius Fields and Mimi Edelman at I and Me Farms, not just a client. He understands the struggle and helps where he can, evidenced by the amazing sauce for the trout dish we enjoyed for dinner. Born of an abundant harvest of tomatillos and Mexican gherkins that might have been wasted, but for the understanding and generosity of chefs like Jay. Some oven roasting and magic and the preservation of the crop was intact. Jay doesn’t do too much preserving; he does some pickling, some stocks and sauces, but no major production. He openly admits it’s difficult to be strictly farm to table, especially in the Northeast; the snow was falling as we enjoyed our conversation and dinner, so while he uses some greenhouse items from the likes of Cabbage Hill, he also uses the Hunts Point Market for staple items in the dead of winter.
He recognizes he is working with farmers and they can be their own worst enemy. This requires some level of patience and attention to detail when a crop goes bad and can’t be delivered or if something changes in the fields. He assures his purveyors that he is an email away if there is an overabundance that they need to move; he can usually be the one to make something fabulous out of what might have been lost to a bumper crop with no buyer. It takes a certain kind of chef to work this closely with the local farmers; the number of chefs in the area who consider themselves primarily farm to table is limited. There is a certain advantage to that, but with that advantage comes a responsibility too.
Jay is relatively new to working so closely with all the local sources as he’s only back at the Kittle House since early 2013. Upon arrival, there were infrastructure matters and realigning of staff and culture creation to worry about first. We didn’t get to fully explore how his fresh and local culinary point of view affected his current clientele. However, he is drawing additional clients through the restaurant’s website, Facebook, and Pinterest, and he’s confident that the word-of-mouth interest is ever-increasing. He offers upscale takeout, meal replacement, and catering, both on- and off-site. Chef Jay will be holding classes and will host an on-site farmers’ market, which he believes will be mutually beneficial.
We can attest to the fact that the menu is upscale and delicious, and truly reflects Jay’s commitment to fresh and local, so much so that he includes the names of his sources right on the menu. We very much appreciated speaking with Jay and his staff, also a reflection of the commitment to culinary excellence that we enjoyed, and we hope to bring you more Chef Lippin in our Peppered Chef series.