Three-time James Beard Nominee Chef and restaurateur Jay Caputo is a very busy man. With a schedule that includes splitting his time between the three popular restaurants under his belt (Espuma and Beachside Bar & Grill – both in Rehoboth – and the very recently opened Pilot Town Fish Company in Milton), the responsibilities that come with the recent birth of his son, and his many public appearances and cooking events, we were amazed that we were able to find any time at all with the Dover native for a sit down interview. But, after a relatively short wait while he worked his way back from the Rehoboth Farmers Market in Rehoboth to where we were set up at the Pilot Town Fish Company in Milton, host Michael Sprouse was able to join Caputo in the kitchen and at the bar for a chat about his work in the culinary arts.
There’s plenty online and in print covering Jay’s many accomplishments and since we’re going “Back In The Kitchen” with the chefs that we will focus on in this series, we want to focus on the persona of a chef. What makes them tick. Why did they choose this career and why this area? What’s it like to create with food for a career? These are some of the questions we’ll be looking at over the next few weeks in this series on Coastal Cuisine.
Sprouse has known Jay socially for a number of years, but it’s only been over the last year that they have become more well acquainted and friendly through Coastal Cuisine. Sprouse says that when you first met Jay, he tends to come across to some as standoffish, but he really isn’t like that at all once you get to know him.
“He’s very focused and always thinking about what will work on which menu in which restaurant,” Sprouse said. “Once you’re having a drink with him at the bar, just hanging out, he’s soft spoken, gentle and very witty.” Jay himself said that while he loves what he does for a living, he’s just more comfortable “behind the kitchen doors.”
Jay is definitely more of an in the kitchen kind of man rather than a front of the house kind of person. Which is perfect, because that’s where he can do what he does – and loves – the best, making incredible food. The other admirable quality about Jay is that he is always quick to mention how important the team is in the restaurant. Every one that works to create the experience becomes part of the experience and Jay is a firm believer that a chef is only as good as the team. It’s refreshing to hear and, based upon the success of his restaurants, it’s important to Caputo.
By the way, the dish that Jay whipped together for Sprouse for this filming was truly delicious – a Thai seafood noodle dish with a lot of kick to it. But that being said, if you like truly spicy/hot food, try the Drunken Noodles that Jay offers at the Beachside Bar & Grill in Rehoboth. Sprouse said it was one of the spiciest dishes he has ever had the pleasure to try.
Here’s to good taste!