Salt & Barrel: Seafood Perfection

Chef Michael Ross isn’t a stranger to Long Island’s culinary scene. He has been in the business for more than 30 years, working at restaurants like Jewel in Melville, Fiddlehead’s in Oyster Bay and Jedediah’s in Jamesport. Most recently, Ross has diners taking the bait at Salt & Barrel, an oyster bar and restaurant in Bay Shore.

I spoke with Ross about the journey and influences that led him to become a chef and what Salt & Barrel will be cooking up for Pulse’s Island Tasting event on Thursday, Nov. 9.

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How did you get into the restaurant business?
I started cooking as a summer job when I was in school and kind of fell in love with it. I was majoring in marine biology and decided to drop everything and start cooking. I attended the Culinary Institute in New York.

How did you find Salt & Barrel?
The chef was moving on and I had some availability. We really hit it off and I’ve been here since May.

Long Island’s surrounding waters influence the menu at Salt & Barrel. What is your connection to Long Island?
I grew up in Brentwood. We used to go clamming all the time and I was on fishing boats from a very young age. Once I started cooking, I moved out to the Hamptons.

Serving seafood, how do you adjust the menu to what is seasonally available?
We’re in close proximity to the water on Long Island and a lot of purveyors will come to us with what they have at the moment. We have eight varieties of oysters daily, at least four varieties from the Island. We try to incorporate some varieties from the West Coast to let people see the difference. [But] we always do our best to source locally.

What will Salt & Barrel be serving at Pulse’s Island tasting event?
We haven’t quite decided just yet—but it will be something seafood that’s for sure.

What is your favorite dish to make at Salt & Barrel?
The menu is always evolving. What I really like to do is make daily specials. I sit down with my sous chef and we look at what we have that day. Discussing food with someone who is really interested and making new dishes all the time is really what drives me and keeps me interested.