A Chef’s Pantry

Hen of the Woods founder Jonathan Bernard and head chef Anna Lembo speak with Purist about their eclectic, ethically sourced Southampton gourmet specialty market.
Jonathan Bernard and Anna Lembo. Photo: Doug Young

By Jenna Lebovits

PURIST: Jonathan, what led you to create a specialty store that sources rare, niche and hard-to-find food items?

Jonathan Bernard: I was delivering one-of-a-kind ingredients to restaurants on the East End, and I thought, How cool would it be to bring this to ordinary home consumers? A mix of items they are familiar with, and some things that can really push the boundaries of cooking. 

What sets Hen of the Woods apart from other markets on the East End? 

JB: We are a one-stop shop for incredible ingredients and nutritious prepared foods made from those same items. Chef Anna is obsessive, in the best way possible, about where each ingredient comes from, keeping it simple and delicious. It is also worth mentioning that we are now offering omakase-style sushi for takeout. Each piece is carefully crafted by a sushi master with over 30 years in New York City’s best sushi restaurants. Fish is flown in from Japan, as well as caught locally, and served exactly the way it should be consumed.  

What role do strong relationships play in this industry?

JB: Knowing your farmer, fisherman and producer is paramount for us. It allows us to get the freshest quality possible for our customers and chefs, and also helps to support local producers. Seasonality of food is something we try to express as much as possible and is just a lot of fun to work with. 

Anna, what are a few favorite specialty items you make that you love turning customers on to?

Anna Lembo: My personal favorite list is long. Everything I make at the store is well thought out and very important to us. To name a few, of course our top seller, mixed mushroom soup; mushroom and buckwheat medley, a nutritional powerhouse; and of course mushroom and vegetable dumplings—hand-rolled and comfort food redefined.

What is your go-to summer dish, and what are the health benefits?

AL: My favorite go-to summer dish is seasonal, local, grilled vegetable medley with grilled mushrooms, local catch of the day with a side of bright, herby chimichurri. It’s mineral-, vitamin- and nutrient-rich, as well as overall light and satisfying. 

Hen of the Woods supports local producers. Photo: Doug Young

Where do you source your cooking inspiration?

AL: From the items we carry at the store. Jonathan is amazing at what he does. We have beautiful wild foraged and seasonal ingredients from all over the world. And of course, in the summertime, local farms and farmers markets are just a cornucopia of inspiration.

How did you land on Southampton as the place for your business?

JB: Southampton is a great mix of home cooks, chefs and people who are looking for food they can trust. It has an amazing local community that really comes out and tries new things. It also has a handful of farms and agriculture surrounding it, such as Halsey Farm

How has your business shifted and transformed over the past two years?

JB: Although we are known for rare ingredients, I don’t think we’ve ever had this amount of prepared foods, and that is completely thanks to Chef Anna. Nearly everything we offer is made fresh daily, with our customers’ individual nutritional needs in mind. We are pushing the boundaries for sure, and uncompromising on the quality of ingredients found in every item. 

Anna, what current shifts are you noticing with food trends?

There’s definitely awareness about the quality of the food. People are more mindful about how the food they consume is sourced. Farm to table is definitely on the front lines more than ever. 

What wellness lessons have you learned since opening Hen of the Woods two years ago? 

JB: Take time and prioritize yourself, even with so much going on. It’s partly time management, but also just knowing that some things can wait until tomorrow. 

48 Hampton Road, Southampton; 48hampton.com