EyeSwoon

I cook simple food. I often return to the same flavor profile: lemon, olive oil, herbs, hint of spice—these Mediterranean flavors are what I swoon, crave, desire at all times. Sometimes I wonder if my family or friends will grow bored of my staple flavors, but most often the quality ingredients speak for themselves. I once heard a chef I admire say that he liked to challenge himself to create an incredible recipe (or as I would say, swoon-worthy) with as few quality ingredients as possible. This struck a cord with me and forever shifted my approach to cooking. I began to focus on quality local purveyors and rather than buying the largest, least expensive tub of olive oil, I began to purchase smaller batches that were perfectly nuanced for a particular dish.

When I first ate at Moby Dick’s 3 years ago, I knew immediately that the chef shared the same philosophy. While painstakingly simple, the food at Moby’s is still flavorful and complex. Chef Gary King, formerly of Il Buco and Cookshop, is intensely committed to keeping his food as un-manipulated as possible. I remember the first time I devoured his spaghettini—it touched upon every point within my palette—the sting of heat, just the right amount of acid from lemons, gently cooked farm-fresh tomatoes brightened with herbs, and finally, the most succulent rock shrimp—I have never dined at Moby’s without ordering it. Apparently, I am not alone: Gary tells me that it is the most popular dish on the menu.

I stepped into the kitchen at Moby’s a complete stranger to Gary. However, peeling fava beans and chopping asparagus together got us chatting and there was a playful, relaxed and inviting energy that mirrored the unpretentious and unfussy food we were preparing. Gary dressed our farro salad oh-so-simply—with just vinegar, EVOO, and sea salt. His less-is-more approach to cooking is steeped in his core values about food—emphasizing quality and where food comes from. Everything is sourced from the bounty of local Amagansett farms: Balsam Farms, Amber Waves, Quail Hill, or even right off the docks in Montauk. As he says, “the quality is the part that’s most important, after that nothing matters.”

Next we moved on to pizza making. Everything is made in-house for the pizza—the dough, the mozzarella, and the sauce. Gary’s secret to Moby’s swoon-worthy sauce is a little trick he picked up in Italy: DO NOTHING to the tomatoes—use simply ground tomatoes for an über delish and pure taste.

After my day in the kitchen at Moby’s, I felt inspired by my simple style, which is not dissimilar from Gary’s.  When I worry that my flavors are too pared down, I’ll remember that even this highly trained chef has an ultra-simple execution and that makes me feel like I’m onto something. No more apologizing, Athena! One thing I know for certain: my family will continue to frequent Moby’s for the rest of the season. Gary, and his purist approach to food and quality local ingredients are very refreshing indeed.

Interview

Chef Gary King

    • How would you describe the food at Moby’s?

      Moby’s is farm-to-table, and rustic with a Mediterranean flare.

      What would you say the core value is in your food? 

      The quality. Where it comes from, we source everything from the farms, right off the dock, the fishermen. The quality is the part that’s most important, after that nothing matters.

      What’s the one dish that really represents Moby’s? 

      Probably the spaghettini, that’s been on since day one. Since the Montauk days, it’s a staple.

      What was the genesis of you getting here? Where were you before this? 

      I was at Il Buco before I started with these guys. It was just a friend of a friend. They were like “hey we got this project going on”, and I just always wanted to work in the Hamptons, and they happened to be in Montauk. And I had no idea what it was going to be, what we were gonna do, so I was just like “okay” and quit my job and said “let’s do this!”

       What would you say is the most flavor-building combination?

      Salt and acid.

       What 5 ingredients can’t you live without?

      Sea salt, olive oil, beer, lemons and pasta

      What was your last life-changing swoon-worthy meal? 

      MUGARITZ in San Sebastian, Spain. It was absolutely amazing! It was like 20 courses, I got to eat with my hands, which for a Michelin star restaurant was amazing. Highly recommend it.

      Best food country or city?

      Southeast Asia, Singapore, Chicago, NYC, LA, Austin.

      Favorite restaurants?

      Ramen in the East Village

      What’s in your fridge?

      Beer and takeout

      Late-night indulgence?

      Beer, dumplings, ramen noodles.

      What is a food trend that you partake in?

      I don’t partake in any trends. I just do whatever I want. No rhyme or reason.

Moby’s Farro Vegetable Salad

Chef Gary King

  • Ingredients

    • Serves 2

      • 200g cooked faro
      • 1 baby carrot sliced thin on mandolin
      • 2 tablespoons cooked fava beans
      • 2 tablespoons cooked pea
      • 2-3 stalks of cooked asparagus cut into 1” slices
      • 1 radish sliced thin on mandolin
      • 2 tablespoons chardonnay vinegar
      • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
      • Handful of arugula
      • Sea salt to taste
  • The Prep

      • Precook your farro, fava’s, asparagus, and peas, set aside.
      • Thinly slice your carrot and radish on a mandolin.
      • Vegetables can be made in advance and kept fresh and crisp in a water and ice bath.
      • To compose the salad combine your first 6 ingredients in a bowl, drizzle and toss with chardonnay vinegar and evoo.
      • Finish with a handful of arugula, chopped chives and sea salt to taste.

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