Eric Feil is the CEO of Dan’s Papers, the East End’s 56 year-old publication covering all things newsworthy. He came on board in 2011, the same year as the first Dan’s Taste of Summer event. Originating as one event to celebrate the East End’s food, wine, and culture, Dan’s Taste of Summer now has four events over four days, each of which celebrate a different aspect of the East End. The flagship event is Dan’s Taste of Two Forks where guests can sample libations and dishes from forty of the top restaurants and wine makers on the North and South Forks of the East End. The event is hosted by Alex Guarnaschelli, one of the Judges on Food Network’s Chopped. We had a chance to speak with Eric about all this and more, including the importance of showcasing local food and giving a portion of the event proceeds to local charities.
Eric, how has Dan’s Taste of Summer evolved since you arrived in 2011?
Well there were a few food and wine events here in the Hamptons but none of them celebrated the chefs and restaurants of the Hamptons and the North Fork. So we pulled together forty of the best restaurants, wine makers and local purveyors to showcase the best of dining and drinking on the East End. Then we added GrillHampton, where eight great chefs from the East End go up against eight chefs from Manhattan in a grilling competition with a panel of celebrity judges including the founder of Dan’s Papers, Dan Rattiner. The host of that this year is Adam Richman.
The other events are Harvest East Ed and the Clambake MTK. Harvest East End is hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian and we partner with the Long Island Wine Council to showcase the wineries in Long Island creating word class wine.
Clambake MTK is the newest event, held at Gurney’s Montauk Resort. We are bringing in great local chefs for a surf and turf menu. Marc Murphy and Eden Grinshpan are both hosting.
How important is it to the event that local producers and purveyors be used?
It’s critical because here on the East End we have cheese makers, wine makers and fishermen going back centuries doing farm to table before it was even a concept or a marketing term. Its how people live out here, embracing local produce and local food.
We’ve even moved our event to Fairview Farm overlooking Mecox Bay so guests will be eating and drinking local food and wine on a farm where these things are grown. Its like being at the farm and the table at the same time.
Who are the majority of your guests? Are they mostly tourists or East End locals?
It’s a really diverse crowd that comes to our events. We have young people from the city coming out to see their parents who have retired here as well as locals who love to come and celebrate the chefs and wine makers and farmers that they know personally. Everyone comes out, whether its true locals who spend the whole year or quasi-locals who are just here for the summer. We even have people calling up making sure they have tickets because they are planning their entire trip to the Hamptons around these events. Between all four events we are expecting around six thousand people.
What are the goals of these events?
What we are trying to do is multi-tiered. First we want to give everybody contributing to the culinary culture here a platform to show how great their work is. Second we want to give the guest a great experience and a desire to come back because of how fantastic the events are. And we want to deliver great content and products to our guests from our sponsors.
Who are some of the sponsors? Are they all local or are some national level?
It’s a mix of both national and local brands. We have sponsors like Audi of Southampton, Hampton Coffee and Hotel Indigo in Riverhead who are all local. We also have national companies, especially for liquor, like SKYY Vodka, Corona, Blue Moon and Stop and Shop who are all on board. Pat LaFrieda does all of our meat for the Grillhampton event. What’s better than a night of great chefs cooking the best meat you can find?
What does it take to organize such a large event with many sponsors, celebrities and high-profile guests?
Its funny, we all look at ourselves once and awhile and think “wow, you never want to sleep”. We have kind of given up that luxury. We produce Dan’s Papers every week as a print product, a monthly real estate magazine called Behind the Hedges and the website, danspapers.com.
That isn’t even involving the events. For those it takes a great team who are always thinking of what locals want to see from us. You want a great PR agency like we have in Key Group Worldwide. And you have to coordinate all of it carefully, with the town, the host talent and the sponsors. If you’re focused and have a passion for it then it will go great. You have to love it, and I think it shows that we do. People come to the event and tell us it’s the best one they’ve ever been to. It is a the “must attend” event of the summer here on the East End.
It’s a labor of love. We love to eat and drink and plan, so its labor we are just fine with.
Part of the proceeds from ticket sales go to charity. Could you talk about what charity you give to and why?
The charitable donations from our first weekend, with the GrillHampton event and Taste of Two Forks, go to AFTEE (All for the East End). It is a 501c3 based locally that has a fund for which over 1,000 East End charities can apply for grants for their projects. We want to remember that these are great nights with terrific food and drink but every day of the year there are people out there who need help and we want to be a part of that.
We also give a portion of the proceeds to Benefit the Long Island Farm Bureau that helps support local agriculture. Finally, we give to HRH Care, a community health center on the East End.
Thank you Eric for your insight and good luck with the event!