Chef Stephen Smrcina has returned to Jedediah Hawkins Inn after a three-year absence. He was chef number 10 at the Jamesport property; now he becomes number 14, or possibly 15 or 16.
Keeping track of who’s running Jedediah’s kitchen became a culinary parlor game around 2012, when Keith Luce, the fourth chef, left. Since then the average chef stint has been about seven months.
But after a recent dinner at Jedediah, I’ve decided to stop counting. This restaurant’s fortunes don’t appear to depend on who’s in the kitchen.
For the first few years after the restored Victorian inn opened in 2006, the owners seemed determined to make the restaurant a culinary showcase. The founding chef was Tom Schaudel, one of Long Island’s most accomplished restaurateurs, and his immediate successors included Luce (a James Beard Award winner who once cooked in the White House), as well as other serious local chefs such as Kyle Strong Romeo (now executive chef at American Beech in Greenport) and Craig Attwood (until recently, executive chef at East Hampton Point).
But none of the past half dozen have changed the menu’s direction; it remains a likable list of New American dishes that nod in the direction of local farm-to-table (Crescent Farms duck wings have been a fixture since the Luce era), Mediterranean (shrimp with aioli, mushroom flatbread), bistro standards (roast chicken with baby carrots, a “Jedi” burger with Gruyere and hand-cut fries) and some dated crowd-pleasers (pasta primavera, a salad of poached pears, candied walnuts and blue cheese).
Diners, it seems, are not coming here for culinary fireworks. They are coming for the welcoming atmosphere and friendly service (under the capable direction of general manager Colin Keillor, who has been here for six years) and, especially, the setting. With one formal dining room, another one on a glassed-in patio and outdoor tables that spill from a porch onto the grounds, this is one of the loveliest eateries on the North Fork.
The inn's principal owner, Lia Polites, was not immediately available for comment.
Jedediah Hawkins Inn is at 400 S. Jamesport Ave., Jamesport; 631-722-2900, jedediahhawkinsinn.com.