Required Reading: “A Chef’s Odyssey” by Guy Reuge

You love his restaurants. Now it’s time to read his story.

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Photo by Doug Young

It is full steam ahead for Chef Guy Reuge who just released a brand new autobiographical cookbook, while running—and cooking for—three fabulous restaurants. His latest endeavor, A Chef’s Odyssey, is the remarkable story of his life, combined with his classic recipes.

Guy Reuge is truly one of Long Island’s most well-known chefs, having opened the now-famous French restaurant Mirabelle in St. James in 1982. By 2008, Reuge had received a phone call from Michael Lessing, the CEO of Lessing’s Inc., a family-owned restaurant management company. The Lessings had recently acquired the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, and had asked Reuge if he would be interested in moving Mirabelle to the old Inn. After much thought, Reuge agreed, and work began to renovate the old Inn. With the pressure of owning the restaurant off his shoulders, Reuge was able to concentrate on what he does best: cooking. He prepares all the food for both Mirabelle and the adjoining restaurant called The Tavern.

In 2015, Lessings approached Chef Guy Reuge once again with an offer to open another restaurant, this time in Cold Spring Harbor. Always looking for new opportunities, Reuge agreed, and Sandbar hit the restaurant scene with its all-American menu. You would think that Reuge, now in his 60’s, would be contemplating retirement. This is one chef that cannot be held down. With two restaurants under his belt, Reuge was then approached by a good friend in the wine business, who wanted to open a wine bar and tapas restaurant with Reuge. Chef Reuge was intrigued by the idea of creating small plates, so he accepted the offer and LeVin opened in Lake Grove in the spring of 2016. The official ribbon cutting ceremony took place on Friday, October 7, 2016 with patrons and members of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce attending.

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Later that day, Reuge had his first book signing in the center of the Smith Haven Mall. The concept of the cookbook came about five years ago. He enlisted the help of writer Philip F. Palmedo, who would assist Reuge in getting his thoughts and words on paper. About 65 recipes appear in the book from basic to advanced, and it includes several signature dishes from Mirabelle, like his Cocktail Mirabelle, Duck Mirabelle, and his ever popular Ginger Almond Tart. It also includes recipes from his childhood, such as Eggs Grandmère Andrée, and Gibelotte of Rabbit Solognote, which is a traditional rabbit stew.

What makes this book so different from other chef-authored books, however, is that it takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the incredible life of this humble yet renowned chef. A Chef’s Odyssey is just that – an odyssey into the adventurous world of a chef with all its high and low points, and everything in between.

It begins with Guy’s youth, specifically with his growing up in the Loire Valley, which Reuge refers to in the book as “the breadbasket of France.” His mother was a cook in Sologne, and his father was a mason devoted to his vegetable garden. Reuge paints an amazing portrait of his childhood which comes vividly to life in the book. He explains how, “The land around [his] house was the source of much of [his and his family’s] food. The garden, of course, but also the woods and fields, where [they] picked chanterelles and other mushrooms, wild berries, nèfle fruit, and wild greens for salad.”

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Young Guy learned to cook from his mother, who taught him how to cook everything from pork roasts to fricassee, and how to kill a rabbit. Shortly thereafter, Guy would hunt and trap small birds on his way home from school, and then carefully pluck the feathers, remove the entrails, and then burn the down off over an open flame. He would then wash and season them inside with fresh garlic, thyme, bay leaves and salt and pepper, then wrap them carefully in bacon and tie them up. His mother would then roast them.

The odyssey continues with his first kitchen job at age twelve, to the restaurants he worked in, to a stint in the French army, to his time spent in Morrocco, and finally, his journey to New York where the next phase of his life began. The book is heartwarming and informative, funny and heartbreaking. A Chef’s Odyssey will take its readers to a deeper understanding and appreciation for a man Long Island has come to know and love.

The Book Revue in Huntington will host Chef Reuge’s next book signing on November 7.

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Kerriann Flanagan Brosky

Seven-time, award winning author and historian Kerriann Flanagan Brosky is best known for her Ghosts of Long Island books and her inspirational novel The Medal. She has been featured in a number of publications, and has appeared on radio and television. She is the co-author of Delectable Italian Dishes for Family and Friends with Sal Baldanza. Historic Haunts of Long Island: Ghosts and Legends from the Gold Coast to Montauk Point is her latest book. When not writing Kerriann spends her time cooking. Visit her at www.kerriannflanaganbrosky.com.