Meet the Chef: Ty Kotz of Topping Rose House

Tom Colicchio’s latest enterprise, The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, opened just two months ago. At its helm is Chef de Cuisine Ty Kotz. I took a tour of the restaurant and its garden with Kotz last week. Afterward I chatted with Tom Colicchio and he said exactly what I was thinking about Kotz: “There’s just something about him.”

Clearly Kotz is hardworking and dedicated—I very much look forward to enjoying the fruits of his talents when I dine at Topping Rose for the first time next week. What impressed me most about Kotz was his almost palpable earnestness. Naturally, it turns out that Kotz began life as a farm boy. He spent his early years in rural Pennsylvania. His family then moved to a small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio. His mother instilled in him an appreciation for fresh ingredients and good cooking.

Following his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 1998, Kotz made a move to New York where he worked at some top restaurants, including seven years with Danny Meyer at Tabla.

After 15 years in New York Kotz relocated to East Hampton. He says he’s “very excited to be surrounded by farms.” Like every inveterate foodie, he’s at it 24/7. Outside of his hours at Topping Rose, Kotz brews beer at home and has been “helped” in making pasta by his daughter since she was two years old.

Kotz says that they just might grow some hops on the Topping Rose property some day. Already the one-acre garden plot, designed and worked by Jeff Negron of The Growing Seed, provides beautiful, organic  greens, carrots, turnips, radishes, peas and herbs. Next year the plan is to add figs, raspberries and blueberries but, as Kotz says, “At the end of the day the soil and Mother Nature tell you what’s going to be possible. Next year’s gonna be a lot of fun. This is really something special, an amazing opportunity.”

Kotz proudly showed me a big batch of tomatoes from Pike’s Farm that his staff had  frozen. He says he’ll be fermenting some chilies to make his own Tabasco-like sauce. What doesn’t he do? Well, he has a pastry chef, Cassandra, on staff to tackle desserts. He credits her with making a superior chocolate cake.

Kotz told me that he prides himself on treating his staff as a team and on working closely with the front-of-house. He encourages questions from all sides.

Colicchio stressed that most of the entrées at Topping Rose are dishes he has never offered before. Kotz is charged with realizing Colicchio’s vision. That too is exciting. As the emphasis is on local vegetables, with their own garden in the heart of South Fork farm country, they’re able to take this idea to its apogee.

Kotz said that other area chefs have been very welcoming and have helped him to connect with local farmers. Sometimes the staff from Southfork Kitchen, which is just down the road, comes in for drinks after work. Kotz quoted Danny Meyer as saying “All boats rise with the tide.” It’s a fine time for sailing through the local restaurant scene. Kotz told me that the Topping Rose already has a lot of local, regular customers.

It certainly looks like Colicchio’s farm-to-table concepts are here to stay in Bridgehampton. When I asked Colicchio if he feels like he’s done it all now—with his restaurants and gardens and cookbooks and wine and the inn—he said no. He said it’s about the young chefs like Kotz coming up now—the future is theirs and it’s a bright one!

The Topping Rose House restaurant is now open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday. The adjacent inn will open in the new year and the food service will go to seven days, all meals. It’s a good thing Kotz is used to hard work.

The Topping Rose House, 1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton, 631-537-0870,
www.toppingrosehouse.com

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