By Ellen Frankman
In the late afternoon of one of those unbearably hot summer days, where the air is thick with waves of dense heat broken only by the occasional breeze, chef Bryan Futerman and his three sous chefs stand before the low molten flames of an even hotter wood burning oven.
Futerman and his young apprentices are making pizzas to order in the big field surrounding the Hayground School in Bridgehampton for the Friday farmer’s market, their pies feeding parents and their hungry children who have just run over after a full day of camp. But the team will soon be cooking for even more discerning palettes, the restaurateurs and patrons of the annual Chefs Dinner.
On Sunday, July 28 supporters of the Great Chefs Dinner will come together to benefit the Hayground School, Jeff’s Kitchen and to honor the vision of the late Jeff Salaway. This year, for the first time, Futerman of Foody’s will join forces with the kids at Hayground to present a collaborative meal together alongside some of the greatest chefs in the country, including Joe Realmuto of Nick & Toni’s, Christian Mir of Stone Creek Inn and Tom Colicchio of Topping Rose House. This year, the VIP dinner will honor chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.
“I’ve been involved since the very beginning,” says Futerman, who is also the educational coordinator for Slow Food East End. “Now we have a beautiful kitchen and I’m working with the kids in the schools, the campers and alumni.”
For their first collaborative effort, Futerman and the kids are doing two Tuscan inspired dishes, a whole roasted pig and various pizzas.
“We will be working with the wood burning oven and we have a few pizzas that are all going to be sourced from the farmer’s market,” says Futerman. “We will be using Mecox cheeses and Falkowski mushrooms and making some reallåy special pies.”
“Bryan, how do you do the edges?” asks Nicholas Catrambone, a 14-year-old Hayground School counselor-in-training as he stands next to Futerman with a moist disc of pizza dough between his hands.
“Just pick it up and gently pinch it around the outside.” Futerman works his own slab of dough in a rhythmic circular pattern, pressing it against a cold slab of metal before turning it in his hands to thin crust pizza perfection. Catrambone follows suit.
“We’re also doing a whole roasted pig,” says Futerman. “One of the things that Jeff Salaway always had loved was a whole roasted pig.”
Futerman has been working with Todd Wells from Wells Farms in Amagansett for a number of years in preparation for getting the pig for Sunday evening. He plans to debone the entire thing and roast it porchetta-style over wood for more than six hours.
“Is this good?” asks Catrambone. “It kind of looks like a blob.”
“It’s getting there,” says Futerman, as he slaps a perfectly rounded sheet of dough down onto a pan to prep it for toppings.
“We’re teaching culture,” he says. “Pizza is a cultural food and we are cooking this in the exact method that they would use in Italy.”
For Futerman, learning to cook is essential to teaching people how to live sustainably and take care of themselves, values which Hayground has successfully integrated into its classrooms. Wellness comes from not only being able to cook a meal, but also being able to source one and knowing exactly where things come from, he says.
“For many people, everything is just in a box or it’s from a restaurant or it’s takeout,” says Futerman. “People need to know how to cook. That’s really something we are lacking in this country is just the basics.”
Catrambone, now 14, was a camper for three years before becoming a counselor-in-training. He’s hoping to help out with the pizzas the night of the dinner.
“My grandfather is from Sicily and he worked in a pizzeria when he was my age so this is like continuing the tradition,” said Catrambone. “It’s a great skill, because everyone needs to eat. But it’s so much more than that. Even if I’m not going to do it professionally it’s a great thing to involve myself in at a young age.”
“This oven is ridiculously hot,” says Marley Kraft as he pulls a crackling pie out with a wide wood pizza peel. Kraft attended the Hayground School for seventh and eighth grade, cooked for Great Chefs each summer. Now age 20, he has returned as an alum and is helping Bryan out with the dinner once more.
“It’s extremely stressful,” Kraft says. “It’s very very stressful because you are working with people who expect a lot of you.”
But according to Arjun Achuthan, a co-founder of the school and the director of the culinary arts program, the children thrive off of their involvement and their culinary education at large.
The students plan and plant the garden, and then sit to discuss how a meal can be prepared from what’s grown. Every day the kids cook lunch for themselves and staff, amounting to nearly 90 people.
“It’s been an amazing process to see how it effects what they are willing to eat if they cooked it and what has to go on the menu if they planted it,” said Achuthan, who notices the repertoires of the children expand as they grow comfortable eating and cooking new foods.
And through the “Young Chefs Program,” local East End Chefs like Futerman come forward to offer the Hayground kids even more instruction in Jeff’s Kitchen. Workshops throughout the year gradually build towards the students’ involvement in Great Chefs Dinner, further fulfilling Salaway’s mission to bring children, chefs and the community together over a shared love of food.
“There’s a power I think they feel when the go home and start cooking in the kitchen,” said Achuthan. “It’s been a great success.”
The 2013 Chefs Dinner & Meet the Chefs cocktails and tasting party to benefit Jeff’s Kitchen at the Hayground School is Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at the school, 151 Mitchell Lane, Bridgehampton. To purchase tickets, call 537-7068, ext. 113 or visit www.greatchefsdinner.com.