A Conversation with Colin Ambrose

The Sag Harbor Express

June 23, 2015 — Article from the Sag Harbor Express

By Mara Certic


Colin Ambrose is the chef at Estia’s Little Kitchen and spoke about an upcoming art auction he is hosting at the small restaurant and vegetable garden on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.

So how did Sunday’s event come about?

 It’s an event designed to raise funds for the Seedlings Project, which was the brain child of Alice Waters probably more than 10 years ago now. The idea behind it is that, for a lot of families, children go home to empty houses after school. Probably around that time, Project Most started as an after-school group at the Springs School. Joe Realmudo, the chef at Nick and Toni’s, I know had a lot to do with this.

He had students of his own at the Springs School at that time. He started creating “Empty Bowls” fundraisers, where chefs were asked to provide five gallons of soup to fill the empty bowls guests brought with them. It really worked well for a while. I was always really impressed with the way they ran those events. As those years went along, they identified a wonderful helper in Eileen Roaman. She was a gal who my wife had grown up with. When we first opened Estia’s in Amagansett in 1991, she had just moved in the area, purchased a home and was settling here. She became a master gardener—which has as much to do with helping the community as it does gardening. One of the things she did was provide service to the edible school garden at Springs. She was an advisor and she helped with funding. She passed away probably about 18 months ago. After they realized they’d lost their angel, they tried to do what they could to find other people to raise funds and they came to me last fall. I told them I wasn’t in a position to cut checks, but I was able to help. I wanted to coordinate an event that would help.

And where did the idea for the art auction come from?

In that conversation, I suggested we might look at this as an auction. Susan Hackett said we needed someone to be in charge of the art,  and asked me, if I could get anyone at all who would it be, and I immediately said April Gornik. Without my knowing, she reached out to her and it turned out she had been very close with Eileen and said yes. We went from an idea, to requests going out, all the time saying the focus would be on the auction. It’s not intended to be one of those fundraisers that makes 10 percent less than its budget. The idea is we want to get as much of the revenue and income into the coffers of Project Most. April’s a really impressive gal and she did, she was able to bring in a lot of artists.

Have you seen any of the artwork  yet?

 Forty-four artworks have been donated, and they now hang at the restaurant. With April’s help we were able to coordinate programming with an advanced app called Paddle8, where people can see all of the pieces and start to bid, so the bidding has actually started already online. Our goal is to put enough money into the bank account so they might start an endowment. Some artists donated more than one artwork. We have pieces by Eric Fischl, a beautiful bass by Steve Mannino, this incredible line drawing by Jack Ceglic. We even have a few sculptures that are outside in the garden.

What else will be going on Sunday evening? 

There will be a smoked brisket station, Alex Balsam will be roasting corn, Michael Cavaniola will be making little mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, and I’ll have a quesadilla station. There will be wine, beer and cider from different local vineyards and breweries. It’s the time of year when the garden looks great, it should be a great night to entertain outside. We’re just hoping for good weather and that everyone shows up ready to bid on artwork.

Eileen’s Angels garden party and art auction will take place on Sunday, June 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. There is a suggested donation. Those interested in checking out the artwork before Sunday can stop by at Estia’s where the majority of the art is hanging already, or can visit paddle8.com to admire and bid on the art. Estia’s is located at 1615 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.