The Inn and Spa at East Wind executive chef Rob Anthony grew up in Smithtown with an Italian mother and Greek father, and his kitchen in Wading River is a throwback to the aromas of Mediterranean dishes that filled his home as a child.
“We were big into seafood,” Mr. Anthony said from inside the dining room of Desmonds Restaurant & Pub, the upscale eatery housed inside Eastwind’s expansive property on Route 25A.
“I started cooking when I was a young boy, in the kitchen with my mother,” he said. “Some of the first things I learned how to make were mussels, garlic and oil.”
Last May, Mr. Anthony, who lives in Miller Place with his wife and five children, left his 17-year position as corporate executive chef at Holbrook-based restaurant group Lombardi’s to run the show at Desmonds.
“I thought it would be an exciting place to work,” Mr. Anthony, 45, said of the hotel’s restaurant. “I thought it would give myself a new challenge.”
Now ensconced at Desmonds, the Culinary Institute of America-trained chef is taking care to infuse its menu with an Italian flair and hearty portions while emphasizing the importance of cooking with simplistic ingredients and recipes.
“I traveled to Italy in 2006 to go through the difference provinces and do a little research on the different styles of food,” Mr. Anthony said. “I learned there that simplicity is the main thing [in cooking]. Sometimes people go and they take ingredients and they overcomplicate things and it takes away from the natural flavor of the food.”
Apart from the time he spent in Italy, Mr. Anthony said his culinary style is heavily influenced by his family.
“For me, it always comes back to home,” he said. “My grandmother, my mother — on both sides of the family. I like people to gather around a meal. It’s what I remember as a child. I’ve always enjoyed that time.”
When he isn’t in the kitchen at Desmonds, Mr. Anthony is cooking meals at home for his wife and kids, who range in age from 8 to 21.
“My kids love to make soup,” he said. “And we play a little game where we set a time limit and have to get a salad, appetizer and dinner ready before the timer goes off.”
As for working on the East End, Mr. Anthony said he’s excited to be here.
“I see a tremendous amount of growth that’s going to happen out here,” he said. “I think things that are happening on the North Fork are going to have a great influence on what we do here, and I see a variety bright future for Eastwind.”