Chef Guy Reuge, whose cuisine is featured at the Mirabelle Restaurant and Tavern at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, is really no different than you or I.
“Traveling is my passion,” Reuge said, citing his experiences in Spain and China, India and France.
There is one stark difference, though. Reuge is arguably one of the most decorated chefs on Long Island. A recent semifinalist for the James Beard Award, which recognizes “excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education in the United States” according to its website, Reuge was one of two Northeast finalists from the state of New York and the lone representative from Long Island.
“I take it as a compliment,” Reuge said. “It’s always special to be nominated for an award of any kind.”
With over 30 years of kitchen experience on Long Island alone, the man, born in Normandy, France, is far from finished.
“Currently, we’re working towards opening a new restaurant, The Sandbar, in Cold Spring Harbor in July,” Reuge said. “There is pressure every single day to not rest on my laurels and be better than I was the previous day.”
There is evidence of his hard work coming this fall, as Reuge will be releasing a cookbook with some of his favorite recipes.
As he relaxes in a swivel chair in his confined office space, Reuge recounts when he traversed France in search of a human necessity: food.
“In France, you can stop in every town and try their own special dish. Here in America, you can get pretty much the same dish anywhere,” he said. “I think we’re heading towards that in America now. You have young people at the Culinary Institute who are learning the basics, but it’s all almost putting your own unique twist on it.”
Reuge said he predicted the future of the restaurant scene on Long Island.
“Thirty years ago, I made a prediction that the restaurant scene on Long Island would explode,” says Reuge, and with a wide grin, he added, “And here we are.”
Reuge’s American culinary career started in New York City, but he made the unconventional move of coming to Long Island from the Big Apple.
Despite his prowess in the kitchen, even Reuge is not immune to oncoming rushes of hungry visitors.
“The most chaotic I’ve ever seen my restaurant is usually when there’s a huge amount of people,” Reuge said. “Fortunately, my staff has always been trained very well, and there have been no major incidents. But there are certainly times we have been totally overwhelmed.”
The landscape that Reuge has had to combat has shifted dramatically in the past three decades. Whereas it was once just food experts for newspapers or other publications that came to judge his food, with the development of sites such as Yelp, everyone can now be their own self-proclaimed connoisseur.
“I stay away from Yelp,” Reuge said. “The anonymity that the site creates does nothing for me.” Yet, on the site itself, of the 87 reviews that Mirabelle has received from customers, 60 of those are classified as either four or five stars. Only nine patrons gave it a single star.
Reuge understands that his patrons can be fickle.
“Everyone thinks that they’re an expert in today’s day in age. No matter what type of food you make, someone is going to have an issue with it,” Reuge said.
“I once had a gentleman come in and say that his fish was too salty. Well, the problem with that was that we had forgot to put any salt on it! Just because the description had said that it would be ‘lightly salted,’ he assumed it would be too salty for him.”
The life of a chef can be a fruitless one in terms of actually getting to eat.
“I’ll mostly just test the food at work,” Chef said, “There’s no time to sit down and eat.”
Reuge said that working with fish is his favorite, but he will make just about anything.
“I love when dishes become a challenge,” he said.
Reuge’s career has been expansive up to this point and shows no signs of slowing down.
With the opening of a new restaurant and a new book months away from being released, there is no time for rest.
“Each new day I want to be better than I was the previous one. That’s part of what keeps this fun,” Reuge said.