This summer, acclaimed executive chef James Tchinnis brings us the highly anticipated La Fin Kitchen & Lounge in Montauk. Drawing on his experience at some of the top restaurants in New York City, including Le Cirque, The Grand Havana Room, and Osteria del Circo, the French-inspired all-day dining destination channels the seaside destinations of St. Barth’s and St. Tropez while embracing Montauk’s unspoiled beauty. With rosé bubbly and blush flowing freely, a fresh and creative cocktail menu, and an extensive wine list, guests can relax in the lounge with DJ vibes that echo over the Atlantic and weekly live music.
Hamptons Social connected with Tchinnis to talk about his inspiration for creating La Fin’s menu, his experience working with the “rock stars” of French cuisine, and how he would spend a perfect day in the Hamptons.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: What was your inspiration for creating the menu for La Fin Kitchen and Lounge? Did you partner with local purveyors for ingredients?
CHEF JAMES TCHINNIS: Long Island is an agricultural treasure, so when designing the menu at La Fin, I wanted to showcase the ingredients as naturally as possible. We’re using all local or organic ingredients, so the product is incredible. The dishes don’t need to be overly complicated. It’s my job as a chef to incorporate the best ingredients with minimal fuss and then take a step back, because when you’ve got a great product, you can let the dish speak for itself. We’re sourcing from a variety of local farms and purveyors, including Balsam, Marilee’s, Quail Hill, Gosman’s Fish Market, and Montauk Pearl oysters.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: What are a few items on the menu that you are most excited about?
TCHINNIS: I’m really excited about our Tomahawk Ribeye. We’re fortunate to have Acabonac Farms right here on the East End. They provide amazing grass-fed, grass-finished beef that is second to none. Our Tomahawk is 32 oz. and meant to be shared, but if I sat down at La Fin, I would probably give it a shot on my own! Then, there’s the fresh local seafood that we have access to. The swordfish, striped bass, and tuna are all light and healthy dishes, perfect for summer dining.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: You have extensive experience at some of the top restaurants in NYC. How were you most influenced by working at Le Cirque, The Grand Havana Room, and Osteria del Circo?
TCHINNIS: Working in Manhattan was a phenomenal experience. All those restaurants had very high standards. The pace was fast and much was demanded of you. I learned to deal with stress in a calm and professional manner, and to give 100% to my craft. You can’t help but come out of these places a better cook/chef. My experiences there have influenced how I run my own restaurants: maintaining high standards, creating a strong, collaborative team, and offering the best hospitality to our guests.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: What is your connection to the Hamptons and what does it feel like to be opening La Fin in Montauk?
TCHINNIS: I remember taking drives out east with my parents when I was young. It always felt special pulling up to a restaurant after such a long drive. I spent many summers out there enjoying the ocean, and loved the remoteness. When we opened Swallow East, I felt fortunate to be part of the Montauk community, a close-knit group of people. With La Fin, we’ve created a completely new experience while maintaining that sense of community. It’s French inspired, seaside dining. It’s sophisticated and casual at the same time. We think and hope that everyone will love what we’ve done, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our friends from Montauk and beyond.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: You said, “French is the backbone of all modern cooking, and it is how I learned to cook professionally.” Could you tell us more about what influenced you most in your training and also what you love so much about French cooking?
TCHINNIS: While in culinary school, I was surrounded by the “rock stars” of French cuisine: Jacques Pepin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, Jacques Torres, and others. When they’d walk through the kitchen, everybody would stand straighter, cut faster, sauté more intensely. They, along with the other instructors, were all world-renowned, badass chefs, and so inspiring. All modern professional cooking that has stations on the line (sauté grill, garde manger) comes from the French kitchen brigade system, and how I was trained. It is an efficient way to run the kitchen.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: When you look back on your life and your time as a chef so far, what is one meal you cooked or ate somewhere that stands out in your mind as a true highlight?
TCHINNIS: I could most definitely say that eating at Per Se or Le Bernardin was the most memorable, amazing experience I’ve ever had, and that would almost be true. But for me, dining out is about the whole experience, and one of the best memories was a simple night out in the theater district with my wife. We were going to see a play and stopped at an Italian restaurant whose name I don’t remember. I don’t even remember the specifics of the meal, but there was fresh pasta, delicious fresh clams, great wine, and great company. We talked, and laughed, and enjoyed the moment so much. The service was friendly and professional. And that, to me, is at the core of dining out—gathering around a table and creating memories.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: What would a perfect day in the Hamptons consist of for you?
TCHINNIS: I’d wake up to the breeze blowing into the house. I’d get packed up, grab some sandwiches and snacks, and head out to the beach. I’d take a nap under an umbrella, swim, drink an ice-cold beer while watching my kids play in the sand. I’d come home, shower up, then head to La Fin. I’d order a killer glass of rosé, some fluke crudo, and a roast chicken. Then I’d head to town and grab some ice cream with the family. We’d go home, sit under the stars next to a fire pit, and unwind.
HAMPTONS SOCIAL: As the world starts to open up again, are there any food-related travels you’d like to make?
TCHINNIS: I think I’d start a bit close to home, and head into New York City. The restaurant industry there continues to need our support. I still need to get to a David Chang restaurant, so it’s definitely on my to-do list once we’re back to “normal.”
La Fin is located at 474 West Lake Drive, Montauk, NY 11954. Reservations are available through OpenTable. For more information, visit www.lafinkitchen.com.
[Photo credits: Doug Young]