Why Tom Schaudel? Long, long before reality television made household names out of the victors of Iron Chef and Food Network Star, there was Tom Schaudel.
Long Island’s de facto top chef has been working in the restaurant biz, in virtually every capacity, since 1968. As a 15-year-old rabble-rouser from Carle Place (“hometown to two of the greatest guitar players of all time…Joe Satriani and Steve Vai”), he lied about his age to score a minimum wage dishwashing job at Sir Loin’s Steak Pub in Westbury. Washing dishes was the means to an end; the wannabe rock star guitarist needed money to purchase an amp. Under the sketchy tutelage of a cook named Shorty, a man with a “penchant for carrying unlicensed firearms and drinking,” Schaudel got a back-of-the-house baptism by fire. Ever the colorful storyteller, Schaudel entertainingly tells tales of misadventures with Shorty that, in spite of the obvious recklessness, makes one laugh out loud. Within a short amount of time, dishwashing led to a spot as a prep cook and an eventual reality check. “Being a mediocre guitar player was never going to earn me a @#$%load of money,” says Schaudel. Potentially influenced by Shorty and definitely inspired by his Swiss grandmother, who infused his senses with the smells and tastes of good fresh food, Schaudel enrolled at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, then in New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated in 1973.
The next few years found Schaudel honing his culinary skills while working his way up various restaurant ladders (he estimates that he has cooked in at least 30 different restaurants and fed two million people), eventually opening his first restaurant, the wildly popular Panama Hatties in Huntington Station in 1982. Since then, Schaudel has been the impetus behind many of Long Island’s most successful restaurants, including Angelfish (Long Beach), Thom Thom (Wantagh), Lemongrass (Roslyn), Coolfish (Syosset), 107 Forest Avenue (Locust Valley), Rockfish (Huntington), Jedediah Hawkins (Jamesport), PassionFish (Westhampton), Spring Close House (East Hampton) and Downtown Grille & Wine Bar (Montauk). Schaudel is currently the chef and owner of Jewel (Melville), A Lure Chowder House & Osteria (Southold), A Mano Osteria & Wine Bar (Mattituck) and Ross-Schaudel Catering & Event Planning (Mattituck). He will be opening two new restaurants in September: Be Ju Sashimi Bar (Melville) and Petulant Wino (North Fork).
In addition to his restaurants, Schaudel is also the culinary director at Brenda & Eddies (formerly Christiano’s, Syosset), Upstairs at the Mansion (Woodbury), Chow Down Diner (Bethpage), the Water’s Edge (Long Island City) and the newly opened Suffolk Theater (Riverhead). To most anyone this would be an exhausting lifestyle. To Tom Schaudel, not-so-much.
Schaudel is clearly proud of his Long Island roots, and it shows at his restaurants. At Jewel, the vast glass-walled wine cellar houses a 3,000-bottle collection of 300 labels, and at least 130 of those are Long Island wines. His menus also boast the seasonal best from Long Island’s farms and fisheries. When asked to prepare a quintessential Long Island summer dish, Schaudel immediately suggested mango-barbecued lobster with purple potatoes, corn sauté, tomato and basil because “it screams summer.” Sporting an ever-present colorful bandana, the always-animated Schaudel asked rhetorically, “What are the four things we think of when it is summertime here on Long Island? Lobster, corn, tomatoes and basil.” Who would question that?
So, here we are, some 40 odd years later and Tom Schaudel is now a 60-year-old rabble-rouser (ask him about his foie gras tattoo). He is still playing electric guitar (he did manage to earn enough at Sir Loin’s to purchase that first amp) with his band, Hurricane, and is still masterfully and creatively working it, Midnight Rider-style in his now-famous restaurant kitchens throughout Long Island. And that is why we went In the Kitchen with Tom Schaudel.
MANGO BBQ LOBSTER WITH PURPLE POTATOES, CORN SAUTÉ, TOMATO AND BASIL
FOR THE LOBSTER:
4 whole lobsters
½ cup good quality BBQ sauce
½ cup mango puree
Drop the lobster in a pot of boiling water, remove after five minutes and shock in an ice bath to stop it from cooking any further.
Slice the lobster lengthwise all the way through into two halves. Remove the meat from the tail and claws, being careful to keep them intact.
Light a medium grill fire and place the lobster meat directly over the heat. Mix the BBQ sauce and the mango puree in a bowl and brush one side of the lobster meat. Cook for 1 to 1½ minutes and turn over. Brush the other side with the BBQ mixture and cook an additional 1 to 1½ minutes to warm through.
FOR THE PURPLE POTATOES:
1 pound purple new potatoes, halved
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup half-and-half, warmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring potatoes to a boil in salted water and cook for approximately 20 minutes to soften and drain. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and dry out in a 375° oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a ricer or food mill and mash adding the butter and half-and-half until you reach the desired consistency for your potato mash. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
FOR THE CORN:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups fresh corn, shucked and cut off the cob
1 mango, ½ pureed, ½ diced
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons basil chiffonade
Salt and pepper
Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the corn, and sauté just enough to set the color and heat through. Add the diced mango, reserving the puree for the BBQ sauce and the cherry tomatoes. Cook an additional 1 to 1½ minutes until the mango and tomatoes are heated through. Add the basil. Toss and season with salt and pepper.
Place the corn sauté in the center of the plate. Divide the potatoes among the four plates, placing it in the center of the corn. Arrange the lobster tails and claws, anchoring them in the potatoes. Brush lightly with additional BBQ sauce, garnish with a basil leaf or microgreens and serve. Serves 4