Executive chef Taylor Knapp pauses in the dining room at...

Executive chef Taylor Knapp pauses in the dining room at First and South restaurant in Greenport. (June 21, 2012) Credit: Doug Young

Taylor Knapp, the founding chef at First and South in Greenport, has left the restaurant after three years to focus on a project that he says is a first for Long Island: raising snails. He and partner Sean Nethercott’s fledgling company, Peconic Escargot, is a tiny ranch whose 1,000 head of snails will be housed (and bred) in a 10-by-30-foot greenhouse in Cutchogue. “They’ll live in stacked, soil-filled shelves -- it’s a snail highrise,” Knapp said. 

According to Knapp, virtually all snails served in the United States are canned. "On the West Coast, they forage wild snails," he said, "but we don't know of any other commercial snail farms in the U.S."

After more than a year of planning, the two men are poised to receive their permit from the USDA, Knapp said. Because the species is not native to New York State, Peconic Escargot must apply for a "containment permit" that will ensure that the creatures don't escape into the wild. Knapp hopes to have his first snail harvest in the fall to sell to restaurants.

Knapp's successor at First and South, which opened for the season on April 3, is Scott Leventhal. A graduate of Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute, Leventhal has cooked for the last six summers at Fire Island’s Island Mermaid. He’s also worked in New Orleans and plans to bring a little “Cajun-Creole flair” to Greenport, “while still keeping the menu locally focused, high-end comfort food.”

First and South is at 100 South St., Greenport, 631-333-2200.