The owner of two beloved Hamptons institutions, The Bridgehampton Inn and Loaves & Fishes, is starting a new chapter, celebrating the 25th anniversary of her hotel and the release of her own cookbook, “The Bridgehampton Inn Look + Cook Book.” Here, we sit down with van Kempen to reflect on her years as a local luminary of food.
Tell us how you got your start. We imagine you were far ahead of the curve 25 years ago?
My first job in the business was as manager of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa in Westhampton Beach, almost 40 years ago. After that summer I went to cooking school, cooked at The Royale Fish in Amagansett for a year, and then joined my mother Anna Pump at Loaves & Fishes Food Store in Sagaponack as both chef and catering manager.
In 1994, Mom and I purchased the property in Bridgehampton and renovated to create what is now our inn. We operated as a six-room B&B with a cooking school and private event space for 20 years, and five years ago I added six more rooms, created the restaurant, and built our Loaves & Fishes Cookshop space with my husband Gerrit.
What kind of lessons were you able to take away from your time with Ina Garten?
Ina shared with me her list of dos and don’ts. Such as, to be sure to make products that you can consistently supply, and to often walk through the front door, to assess the experience
we were presenting to our customers.
When did you realize you had a hit on your hands with The Bridgehampton Inn? Were there any OMG moments?
It was on May 1, 2015, when we added the additional six rooms, the restaurant, and the Cookshop spaces. Amazingly, they were all ready two weeks ahead of construction schedule. We had made it on time and the reservations were pouring in, so a bigger season was destined!
Who inspires your recipes?
My inspiration comes from travel, other chefs, my customers, all of my employees, and our community of farmers.
In addition to your 25th anniversary of The Bridgehampton Inn, you also have a cookbook coming out. What will we find inside?
The restaurant has been “the best-kept secret” to allow it to grow organically through word of mouth with loyal employees. I think we’re now ready to share this special historical jewel with a larger audience through my book, which is coauthored with executive chef Brian Szostak and my son, our mixologist and bar manager Kyle Fengler.
How will you be celebrating 25 years in business?
Our 25-year celebration begins with a community book party on Tuesday, June 18, from 4 to 6 PM at the Inn. All are welcome to share our joy.
For more information, visit www.bridgehamptoninn.com.