Q&A with Jonathan Baker
You never know who you’ll meet on the East End! Case in point: hotelier Jonathan Baker, who – along with his wife, Jenny – is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their boutique hotel, The Maidstone, this summer. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because you may have seen it in the credits for a feature film starring Nicholas Cage, or on a bottle of cult-classic fragrance. He wears many hats, our Jonathan, and each one is kind of like that flashy, jaunty, expertly crafted fedora that you bought on vacation and would love to wear on your next formal outing, if only you could pull it off…
But enough about us! We were fortunate enough to catch up with the Hamptons’ resident Renaissance man to chat about all things Maidstone, including his personal favorite room (hint: it’s not the biggest), his must-do Hamptons meals and activities, and the best place to hang this summer for a chance to appear in the background of his next film.
Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of The Maidstone! You and Jenny have been doing “Scandinavian Cozy” on the East End since long before “hygge” entered the hashtag lexicon. Tell us a little about what makes a stay at The Maidstone so different from other area hotels.
We have 19 rooms, three cottages, and some houses that are on the property. So, what makes us unique is that we are a boutique hotel. We are famous for our photo art and our rich colors. Then there’s the Scandinavian undercurrent that actually is part of the hotel – we have furniture from all of Scandinavia, we have beds from Scandinavia. Our most important part of The Maidstone is that we believe that we are the SoHo House of the Hamptons.
One other thing, our cooking: we believe in slow cooking. Slow cooking is a process where we buy organic food, local wines, and local vegetables and we slow cook our food. We also believe in supporting the fisherman, so we have a raw menu and we are a highly regarded restaurant. We are famous for our champagne bar.
The Maidstone is a fine-dining, slow-cooking establishment. There are two parts of the menu. There’s the fine-dining restaurant, then there’s the raw food, which I kind of put in there for myself. I love oysters. I love two-pound lobsters. I love the ability to have crab leg and large shrimps dipped in cocktail. That to me is The Hamptons. I love lobster salads and lobster salad sandwiches. To me when you come to The Hamptons, whether you are eating at a dive bar or eating at The Maidstone, the idea is how do you get your seafood.
Then you have the elevation of slow cooking which is the steaks, the chickens, and the fishes, and we try to get that locally and we try to organically prepare it. To me that’s the magic of our restaurant, and there are a lot of restaurants out there that serve amazing food but they don’t have the environment that we create. We like to believe that we have a great environment that will entertain you as much as the flavors will make your taste buds come alive.
Each room at The Maidstone is decorated differently, like 19 miniature film sets. Do you have a favorite? What makes it so special to you?
Well, so each room has a Scandinavian influence to it. When you go to each room you’ll see that. I personally love the presidential suite, which is where I stay every summer. It’s room 18. We have cottages that are bigger, but I really love room 18. I love the colors in it. I love the Savoir bed that we’ve placed in there with the black headboard. It’s got an amazing soaking tub and it’s got a 180-degree view of the property, and you can see the street, the side street and you then you can see the backyard and what’s happening and so it’s kind of like being up on Mt. Olympus when you’re in there.
The Maidstone is especially welcoming to children and pets, which can be unusual from a hotel. Do you have any pets of your own? How does having three children influence your hospitality?
I do have two dogs: Memphis and Monroe. They are both golden retrievers. They go back and forth from Los Angeles to The Hamptons, and they are part of the community at Maidstone. We do appreciate when customers bring their dogs. We do have a dog menu for them. We allow them anywhere in the property except in the fine dining room, but everywhere else they can be.
As far as the kids go, we welcome the community because we have kids so we set up our life with our children. I have a four-year-old girl, a 10-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl, and we have trampolines. We’re about fun. We have games such as Uno, Jenga, and Connect 4, so there’s always something for somebody to do.
Guests must ask all the time for your favorite East End activities and things to see and do. Can you share a few with us? Where are we likely to find you on a sunny Hamptons summer day?
Well, I play a lot of tennis so every other day you can catch me at Hampton Racquet, a racquet and tennis club. I’m there every morning, and then I come out and I usually go to lunch locally because I like to experience and support the local culture. As the day unwinds, we go to the beach, Main Beach, which has its pop-up restaurant and concession stands and it’s really very beautiful. Then for pleasure I’m a sailor, so I go out to the Bayside and get on a sailboat. That’d be my perfect day to be out on a sailboat, sailing to Block Island, sailing to Martha’s Vineyard or Newport Rhode Island .
When I’m not doing that, I’m usually at Gurney’s Resort up in Montauk. That’s one of my favorite spots. I think the people there are interesting. I think the youth are interesting. I think that all pretty people that are under 25 go to Surf Lodge. All the people that are 25-29 go to Gurney’s and everybody who’s over 30 goes to The Maidstone. So, we kind of created this triangulation where people go when they want to party or relax.
I like Maidstone, I like my own hotel. I like to sit there, I like to party in there. The most beautiful women in the world come through there, and we have amazing couples that really support our bar scene, and then we have an eclectic older group that comes in and sits in our Pink Room, and they’re usually — I can tell you this — The Maidstone really is very eclectic. We have games in the back, we have ping pong, we have hackeysack, bocci ball, we do movies. We really are an upscale community center that really wants to attract the young and beautiful.
You’re so much more than a hotelier: your most recent film, Inconceivable, came out in 2017 starring Nicholas Cage, Faye Dunaway, and Gina Gershon. What’s your next film project?
Well, you know there was Inconceivable that came out in 2017, and then in 2018 Becoming Iconic came out and that was a documentary, kind of the yin to the yang of Inconceivable. And at present we are starting a film called Fate which is a love story set in what we will know later on as purgatory.
I don’t want to kind of give it away, but it’s love finding itself. It’s a romantic, supernatural thriller that is wrapped around an amazing love story, and we are actually casting it as we speak, and we are supposed to be in production in the fall of 2019. So, it will be this fall of 2019 or the spring of 2020. We will be shooting on Long Island at Ohkeha Castle in Huntington, New York, with some shots up in East Hampton so that we can include The Maidstone.