Widgets Magazine

Q & A with Chef Noah Schwartz, Noah's

Q: Did you always know you’d be a chef? A: I always had a passion for food, but I ended up working in restaurants sort of as a fluke. My friend’s family invested in a restaurant in our town, and I and my friends were all lucky enough to get jobs when we were young. I was a busboy, but my big draw was the kitchen. I really wanted to be on that side of the business.

Q: So when did you start pursuing being a chef?

A: As I went off to college I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I started in liberal arts. After a year I realized that wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something that I had a passion for and that was more hands on.

I left school, and spent three or four years bouncing around restaurants and towns, gaining skills. I learned the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington VT and eventually after gaining quite a bit of experience, I was invited to attend as an advanced placement student. I graduated in 2000.

The last chapter of culinary school is an externship where you essentially work as a slave. I was lucky enough to do that work in Napa Valley, in a restaurant called Greystone run by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Wine Spectator. I ended up staying there for a year, and really finished my education there. CIA had very different style and I learned a lot getting to know their instructors.

After the externship I stayed in Napa Valley/Sonoma County cooking for several different restaurants over the next seven years. Throughout that time I worked my way up through the culinary ranks to Chef de Cuisine. I was working for a guy who had three restaurants, and by the time I left we had 5. Each one had a distinctive style but his flavors showed in every menu.

Q: How did you get from Napa to Greenport?

A: Well, around the same time I was in culinary school and heading west, my parents moved to Southold. So during my California years I would visit them here. I saw that the wineries were coming into their own, but the restaurant scene was a little slow to follow. My wife Sunita and I started thinking we might want to open our restaurant here. Once we had our son being near family became even more important, and we took the plunge.

In 2007 we started looking at restaurants, and thought we had a site worked out, but that deal fell through. Since we were already mid-move, we decide to go through with it anyway. Luckily my family knew the owners of the Seafood Barge, which at the time was in the Port of Egypt marina. Coincidentally the seafood barge needed an executive chef, and I was offered the position.

The Seafood Barge was one of the better restaurants at the time and I developed a reputation and a following.

Q: Ok, so that gets you out East. But not yet to Noah’s…

A: In late 2009, the Seafood Barge’s 30 year lease expired, and it simply could not be renewed. So we were forced to close. Sunita and I were ready to open our own place, and were fortunate enough to find our current location. Even more fortunately our customers (and some of our staff) came with us.

Q: What’s the best part of having your own place?

A: Well, what we like most is that the restaurant is a true and full expression of who we are—from the music and ambiance to the food we serve and our wine list. It’s personal. My wife runs the front half, extending our hospitality to all our guests, while I run the kitchen.

We’re open all year long, which is pretty unique in Greenport. We believe it’s a good way to give back to the community which has totally embraced us. We like to support our customers and our terrific staff through the quiet months that the winter can bring.

A few views of Noah's...