The historic Bridgehampton Inn is celebrating its 25thyear with the release of “The Bridgehampton Look + Cook Book.” A collaboration between the Inn and Loaves and Fishes owner Sybille van Kempen, Executive Chef Brian Szostak, and master mixologist Kyle Fengler, the book takes a nostalgic, delicious view of the restaurant’s five-year history, with a tribute to van Kempen’s heritage.
In 1960, when she was 4, van Kempen emigrated from Wanderup, a German town on the Danish border, to the United States. Van Kempen went on to attend restaurant school in New York City and to work for Ina Garten at the esteemed Barefoot Contessa. In1980, Anna Pump, van Kempen’s mother, purchased the Loaves and Fishes Food Shop, and, some years after that, the two went on to join forces at The Bridgehampton Inn. Her mother’s influence — Ms. Pump died in 2015 — lives on in van Kempen’s work.
The book, van Kempen herself said, is the result of “being romanced by my mother’s cooking in the kitchen, and her entertaining. I was surrounded by that my whole life,” she said. “Cookbooks have been a part of our business. They’re all celebrations along the timeline of our business as they grew. The inn has erupted into what it is today. It went from six rooms into 12 rooms. I opened a restaurant, which was not here before. The book and I needed a coming out party.”
This coming out party, which began on July 17, with a book signing at Sag Harbor Books, and will continue with a book tour this fall.
Recipes in the book came together organically. Chef Szostak, who regularly creates new menu items as the seasons change, cooked his menu and photographer Conor Harrigan photographed the progression for an entire year. When, after a year, van Kempen felt that they had not adequately captured the breadth of each category, they photographed for a second year, too. “There are certain ingredients that resonate, and then they come forward in certain dishes that everybody enjoys,” van Kempen said. “It was driven by its own need to share.”
On the beverage side mixologist Kyle Fengler, who also happens to be van Kempen’s son, had both editorial and creative control of the cocktail section. He considers his cocktail program to be a lesson in storytelling. In recounting one particular narrative journey he took his guests on he recounted a cocktail built around a specific spirit, aquavit — a spirit imbued with notes of anise and coriander.
“My heritage is Scandinavian,” he said. “My family is from Germany, but in the far north. Our heritage is much more Danish than it is German. A big part of that heritage is aquavit.” He described how an idea starts to evolve. He incorporates this spirit, aquavit, into the flavors that are part of the local heritage here — strawberries, rhubarb, a local beer. In the end, he has a drink that expresses a balance of sweetness and acidity and texture, but that also tells a story of where he came from and where he is now. “Narrative structure and a cohesive theme are what I reach for,” he said.
As for van Kempen, the recipes she holds close to her heart are also ones that resonate with her heritage. There is, for instance, her mother’s corn bread. “People have been trying to duplicate that forever,” she said. Now, recipe in hand, they will have no excuse not to execute. There is, too, a roast fruit and vegetable bowl. “It’s roasting ingredients and just tossing them together,” she said, although the magic is in figuring out when each ingredient is perfectly roasted.
The book is, by all measures, an achievement. “I think it represents me, the inn, and the history of it, the pride we take, the 25 years,” van Kempen said. “The photography portrays the beauty of the inn and the celebration of the food. I think it really has come across pretty amazingly. If you read the book — even if you just read some of the recipes — you get a sense that this is a family business, and the family is everyone who works here at The Bridgehampton Inn.”
For more information, visit landffoodstore.com or bridgehamptoninn.com.