The Hamptons can prove intimidating to chefs, but David Bouhadana is no shrinking kitchen violet. He may be used to serving customers face-to-face in NYC, but HM is checking with the personable itamae to see how he’s tackling serving sushi in Southampton.
What brings you to the Hamptons? Is there something about the Hamptons you think syncs up with Sushi by Bou?
The Hamptons is the culmination of many years of non-stop hard work. The Hamptons is filled with foodie elites who demand the best. To me, having Sushi by Bou in the Hamptons
is a testament to how far we’ve come with our young business in such a short amount of time. This past year alone, we opened five locations. To be in the Hamptons means we can showcase our brand to the best of the best.
Your set up at Jue Lan is really neat! You’re out back, kind of where the party can really unfold—and while many chefs tend to hide out in kitchens, you’re right in front of everybody, open to opinions, be they praise or criticism. Does that interaction fuel your work?
Being a sushi counter chef with our only seats being at the counter itself, we have literally nothing to hide. We always have to be on point. That’s the beauty of this business. With this mindset by our staff, the customer is almost always guaranteed to get an amazing experience.
With no back-of-the- house kitchen space, Sushi by Bou is like a play where all the actors are performing for the audience the entire time. It’s crazy when I think of it that way, but I guess the Japanese culture I was brought up on taught me that perfection for the customer must be the norm.
And as this is an omkase, chef’s choice kind of deal, is there a basic list of fish and shellfish you stick with, or do you wing it as your imagination allows?
At most Sushi by Bou’s we follow for the most part a basic list of fish where a few pieces get rotated seasonally. But for dinner in the Hamptons, we are going to be winging it based on what we can get our hands on this season.
We love to pitch chefs different scenarios, so let’s pretend it’s a hot July Saturday in Southampton. DJ Twilo is spinning in front and you’re out back, looking at customers who are sweating through their clothes. How do your tailor the menu to cope with their heated state, and which of your cocktails would go best with that?
First, I would ask Twilo to play “Suavemente” (by Elvis Crespo) then I would get a hose and spray the customers down. Then I make sure they have some ice-cold beverages, but nothing changes with the fish. Whether its zero or 100 degrees, you can count on our fish making you feel like nothing else is going on in the world. Then I would need to change my wardrobe.
Now picture it’s almost Labor Day Weekend, and you’re looking to leave a lasting impression on guests who are clearly in the Hamptons for the first time. What fish/shellfish selection would you employ to knock their socks off, and which cocktail would go best with that?
We just partnered with Blade to fly our fish daily to the Hamptons so we are going to do some amazing things throughout the summer. I’m thinking black truffles from Italy, scallops from Japan, lobster from Maine, and three-eyed Simpsons-style fish from the Hudson River. Our seasonal sake sangria would definitely go well with this or some Dom P…you pick.
Working the Hamptons is an interesting scene, as you’re moving 60-70 miles east from the city to feed a crowd which also happens to be doing the same thing. Is there something about the Hamptons that inspires you to prepare food in a different way?
Actually, the food will get served the same everywhere we open. Maybe in the Hamptons I’ll put my pinky up while serving the food and drinking some sake.