Hunting, foraging, fishing. Farm-to-table was never a trend for chef Arie Pavlou, rather the only way of life he knew, instilled in him as a child growing up on the small island of Cyprus. Deepened by a culinary education in Paris and a career in New York City that ultimately landed him on the East End, this concept is embedded in both his work and DNA. Chef Pavlou’s sophisticated résumé is complemented by honest food and a welcoming atmosphere in his latest restaurant, Bistro Été in Water Mill, which he runs with his wife, Liz. Together, they marry a celebration of food and wine with service intended to feel as personal to guests as it is to them.
Chef Pavlou trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, later beginning his career in the South of France as an apprentice for two Michelin Star Chef Phillippe Da Silva. He moved to New York City and worked at top restaurants including Le Cirque 2000. Chef Pavlou’s family values of cooking transcended into the first restaurant he owned, Couer d’Vigne in Southold, now North Fork Table and Inn, and when he operated now-closed Comtesse Therese Bistro in Aquebogue. He says with Bistro Été, which went from a pop-up to permanent restaurant in summer 2017. While the South Fork has a more defined tourism season, Chef Pavlou says the summer crowds bring an energetic vibe to the Water Mill restaurant.
“Owning a restaurant with my wife, Liz, makes it more than operating a business, it’s personal and it’s an extension of our home,” the chef explains. “We are both very passionate about hospitality and to be able to share that with the one you love is a true blessing.”
With a background in hospitality working in a member-owned private country club, Pavlou finds those same ideals of interacting with customers has lent itself to now owning and operating a restaurant with her husband. She first met the chef in the classroom while he was teaching at Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts Program and reconnected later at Comtesse Therese Bistro. How they met is a common question from customers.
“They love that I was his student; but since I was married at the time, we didn’t connect romantically until his final days at Comtesse Therese Bistro where I moonlighted as a hostess,” Pavlou explains, laughing that people think she’s lying as they love to imagine a storied teacher/student love affair. “The burly outgoing chef was the ever-so-annoying gentleman and one night on New Year’s Eve I had enough of the tireless flirting and made my move.”
Their love story is one that transcends into the restaurant through a dining experience that prides itself on being unpretentious and honoring the ingredients on the plate. Both the understated chic and comfortable style of the restaurant and its Mediterranean-inspired menus are designed to evoke the feeling of dining along the French coast.
Chef Pavlou endeavors to create dishes that incorporate foraged ingredients such as bamboo shoots in the summer, mushrooms and wild berries. The current “catch of the day” features hen of the woods mushrooms, which can be found in clusters at the base of trees and are hearty and flavorful enough to enjoy on their own. Customer favorites include Pellegrino Pappardelle with braised short ribs and the zucchini spaghetti.
“I’ve also been enjoying creating our own house-made ‘healthy’ cocktails with unique infusions and only fresh pressed juices,” says Chef Pavlou. “I’ve been pressing my own sugar cane for mojitos, which are full of antioxidants and rich in iron and magnesium. It is an immune booster and can cure any cold!”
In the upcoming off-season the restaurant will offer cooking demonstrations, wine dinners and white truffle dinners. Furthering the farm-to-table concept, the restaurant will also offer “wild-to-table” and wild game dinners hosted by Chef Pavlou this winter.
As for the reception, Bistro Été achieves success in trying to make diners feel more like family than a customer. “The first time one of our favorite customers dined with us, she expressed so much pleasure at the end of the meal,” Chef Pavlou recalls. “She said not only was it delicious but she felt nourished and the meal brought back very special memories. That’s what I want, I want our guests to feel nourished and I hope their meal can spark special memories as well as create new ones.”
Bistro Été is located at 760 Montauk Highway in Water Mill and is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, bistroete.com.