Chef Spotlight Interview: Hooked

Taking Takeout Into New Heights

After more than two decades working the kitchen at one of the most- recognized yet especially accessible eateries in the Hamptons, chef Brian Mooney has broken out on his own and opened Hooked in downtown Montauk—serving a takeout menu of unusual quality and content. Mooney tells HM why he made the move and wise ways to enjoy his efforts.

You describe your food as “elevated takeout”—can you elaborate on what that means?

I like to describe it as “elevated take out” because it’s not your average quick stop take out joint. I’m serving restaurant quality food in a takeout setting. We use the freshest locally sourced ingredients; each dish is put together as it’s ordered. Nothing is sitting around pre-made.

I understand you cooked over at the legendary Clam Bar at Napeague for decades—which means you’ve probably fed at least half the people who’ve ever been east of Amagansett. Are you seeing any familiar faces at Hooked? Do you have regulars who were once your regulars at Clam Bar?

Yes, I’m seeing lots of familiar faces. The locals in Montauk are very loyal and I have received a huge amount of support from them in the few weeks we’ve been open. I’ve also seen a lot of familiar summer faces that I recognize from over the years.

Is it intimidating to leave an institution to branch out on your own, or were you chomping at the bit to do your own thing?

My mentor Dick Ehrlich, who passed away four years ago always encouraged me to own my own place. I felt that this was the right time and felt Montauk needed an establishment like this.

Word is, you have an incredibly tight relationship with area fishermen. How did you cultivate such a connection, and does that inform how you’ve built your menu?

Having been in the food business for so long, I’ve met a lot of local commercial fishermen many of whom are volunteer fire fighters, like myself. I hear what they are catching or not catching…and plan my menu around that. Mike who owns Montauk Pearl Oysters lives across the street from Hooked…. that helps.

And while on the subject of your menu, there are Chicken Goujons! Is Hooked the only eatery in town serving that? Montauk was once known for its summer population of Irish citizens coming through—any chance an old-hat Montauk cook picked up that trick from an earlier era?

We’ve had a lot of people ask about our chicken goujons, they are on the guppies menu AKA kids menu. It is a nod to the Irish term, being from Ireland myself, I thought I’d have a little fun with it. For those of you who don’t know what a goujon is, it’s another name for a chicken tender. I think we are the only eatery who use that term in Montauk, maybe even in New York State.

We like to ask chefs about perfect pairings of plates and drinks. You don’t have a cocktail menu, but it’s a good bet you would know what goes best with your food. Picture it’s Fourth of July week, and the town is swelling with visitors. What dish of yours do you expect to be ordered most, and what would you recommend one drink along with?

I think fish tacos for July, they’re a great summer option. Although we don’t sell alcohol I’d say a nice glass of sparkling rose.

Moving into mid-August and the sun is baking Montauk like it does every year. A couple of people fresh from a day of surfing are looking for something hearty to fill their bellies. What would you choose for them, and what should they sip to match?

Definitely, lobster roll for August…. Order just that in August when the crowds are here, and we’ll get you in and out and back on the beach in no time….it can be paired with almost anything!

One more: it’s October. Nights are cold, days are getting brisk. However, as things are these days, you’re still seeing some straggling vacationers in town. What’s your best dish for a chilly Montauk night, and is there a warm drink to match?

Chowder or bisque for those chilly evenings. We have four to choose from…Manhattan,  New England, lobster bisque or Kick’n crab and corn chowder… it’s really hard to choose, they’re all so good!

A final question: you have that blue logoed truck, so do you deliver? And if so, how far? Could you serve a Hooked fan located in Southampton? Shelter Island maybe? How about Greenport?

We don’t deliver at the moment. The blue truck is used for picking up fresh fish each morning from Gosman’s. It’s not a comfortable ride but it’s an eye catcher for sure!