Ho-Humm Sea Salt? Not at EMP Summer House

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Sam Deitch/BFA.com
Thursday, June 29, 2017

Daniel Humm, chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, has opened up EMP Summer House in East Hampton while the New York City restaurant is closed for renovations. The idea to open a space out East was spurred by a desire to keep the team together through the closure. “We can have the most beautiful restaurant, but if we don’t have our team, we’re nothing,” says Humm. “Now, we’ve turned something that was a problem into an amazing bonding experience.” Located at 341 Pantigo Road in the former Moby’s space, EMP Summer House will be open just for the 2017 season. “[EMP Partner Will Guidara] and I decided to create the type of restaurant we would want to eat at while we’re in the Hamptons,” says Humm. “That’s the most pure and honest way to decide what to do. It’s the only real knowledge you have. Otherwise, you’re just guessing.” EMP Summer House has a more casual ambiance than Eleven Madison, with beach-inspired fare including a lobster boil and fried chicken feast. But, some things remain the same—like Humm’s commitment to using local ingredients. Here, he reflects on why Eleven Madison and EMP Summer House use Amagansett Sea Salt exclusively in their dishes:

I was out East a few years back with my kids. We were swimming all day. On the way back to the house, we stopped at this little shop in Amagansett. We’re getting coffee, and my kids pick up this gift. It was Amagansett Sea Salt. I was surprised to see the product; I didn’t know about the company. This was during a time when we really wanted to focus on New York flavors at the restaurant.

I bought the salt, tasted it, and it was great. The ocean tastes different in different parts of the world. When you taste the salt from Amagansett Sea Salt, it tastes like the ocean out here. I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate the region?’

There was a phone number on the package, and I went home and called the company. It’s owned by the Judelson family. Steven Judelson answered, and I said, “Hi, I’m the chef from Eleven Madison. I tasted your salt. It’s great and I would love to have it for my restaurant.” He said, “OK, how much would you need?” I said I would need like 20 pounds a week. It got so quiet on the phone that I wasn’t sure if he was still there. He was, and he told me that he was only producing somewhere around four pounds a week in total. I was thinking, ‘but there’s enough water. Just evaporate more!’ He said that it wasn’t that easy. I told him that I really wanted to work with him. He was hesitant; he didn’t know who I was. I told him that I would take my team out East to see how he harvests the salt. In my mind, the trip was also about convincing him to work with us.

We went out with our team of like 80 people on a weekend to harvest the sea salt. We used buckets to get gallons of water from the Atlantic and air-dried the salt in the sun. We were out there for two days, but it takes months to do—and so much water! It’s an absurd amount of water for a little bit of salt. It’s a lot of work. That night, he invited us to a lobster boil on the beach. That was one of the greatest experiences for me. That weekend, we enjoyed a dish that is very local to the region, and we had an authentic meal—we cooked lobster and drank beer and had clams and corn. We poured it all out in the picnic tables and we had the best time.

I think Steven saw how committed we were to using Amagansett Sea Salt, and we guaranteed him that this would be a long-term partnership. He had to change his whole production method to accommodate the amount of salt we needed, and he wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to turn around six months later and say we didn’t want it anymore. 

Eventually, that led to a deeper friendship with the Judelson family. Now, of course, we only use Amagansett Sea Salt. It continues to inspire dishes.

All photos are from the grand opening of EMP Summer House on Friday, June 23. Read our Hamptons Editors’ coverage here.


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