By Mara Certic
James Carpenter is the executive chef of Page at 63 Main. He spoke about an event for children taking place at the restaurant this weekend and about Page’s ever-growing aquaponic garden.
What is the idea behind the “Little Foodies” event on Saturday?
A good thing to focus on is some healthy alternatives for kids. We don’t get a whole lot of kids here; our whole shtick is using the aquaponics we’ve got going to encourage those healthier choices. It’s easy to make pasta with butter, red sauce or chicken fingers. But can you offer them maybe an aquaponic salad with some grilled chicken? I think parents will appreciate that as well. So we’re going to give them a full tour of our aquaponics. We have a full-time aquaponic farmer, so he’ll give the tour. We have vertical towers here in the dining room, and when the weather gets warmer we have them on the outside of the building, going up to the roof. Actually, on Sunday, Jimmy Fallon was in here and he said “Hey, I love this thing, I want one for my house!” But anyway, so we’re going to tell the kids about the aquaponics, we have a little portable aquaponic system which will start going to different schools and visiting kids there.
How cool. So what’s actually going to happen at the event?
So they’re going to get an aquaponic tour of the place, there are going to be some people here from the Wellness Center to give a brief introduction to their school program, “healthy choices for life,” which starts in Sag Harbor in April. Marta Blanca from Cornell Cooperative Extension will be the nutritionist presence—she’s just going to talk about the importance and fun of making healthy food options with kids and she’ll bring some interactive demos. And then we’re going to go up to Back Page, where there’s kind of an open kitchen, and so I’ll do a cooking demonstration for the kids. I’ll be making a nice little lunch, with an aquaponic salad, some grilled chicken and a little vinaigrette. We also have aquaponic celery growing, so they’ll get to try some of that. But it’s more of an educational, nutritional event.
Where did this idea come from?
Amber Chapel, Page’s communications manager, just had a wonderful little baby and she and her father-in-law Joe, who’s one of the owners and has a bunch of grandkids, they said “You know, can you do something healthier for the kids?” I don’t have kids so I was like… I can do a dog menu? But so I said sure, and as we were brainstorming on the concept, Joe came across a big foodie event for kids that happened a couple weeks ago in Bryant Park, in New York City.
Do you remember when you first became interested in food?
Well I was abnormal because I was always into food. I knew when I was 5-years-old that I wanted to be a chef. So that was easy for me, and my father always had a big garden so that was also really interesting. I’ve been out here now for about 15 years and it’s such an agricultural mecca. All of the organic farms and farm stands that I utilize, as well as like Mecox Bay Dairy, they make their own cheese.
You must be gearing up for summertime, are you planning to change anything up on your menu or in the restaurant?
Well once we get through and survive restaurant week we’ll starting Springing up the menu a little bit. Winter is winter, there’s not a whole lot of local produce going on. Once we get into spring we’ll get more items. I use Satur Farms, up on the North Fork. They have big greenhouses there and they grow stuff all the time. Also, I think we’re looking to find a facility to expand our aquaponics production.
The Little Foodies Event is free and open to children of all ages and will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. To register for the event, send an e-mail to info@PageRestaurantGroup.com or call (631) 725-1810.