Cookbook Q & A: Home Port Cookbook

By | Chowder |

Will Holtham’s career has landed him in some of the best restaurants in New England, like the waterfront institution Anthony’s Pier 4. In 1977, he took over as chef and owner of the ultimate neighborhood restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard, Home Port, making him a hometown celebrity is his own right. Last month, he released his first cookbook, Home Port Cookbook, giving us personal stories and a taste of seafood recipes straight from the kitchen of one of the Vineyard’s most iconic restaurants.

You were around Home Port for 40 years. Why do a cookbook now?
I had thought about it awhile ago, but I’m always so busy in the summer with work, and winter was for relaxing and recharging. When I retired two years ago, I knew I would need a project. Here it is.

Chet Cummins (the previous owner of Home Port) was obviously a huge influence in your life. Who are your other inspirations as a chef and business owners?
I worked with Donald Valle, of Valle’s Steak House, and Anthony [Athanas] at Pier 4. Both were huge influences on how I run a restaurant.

Home Port is such an established place. What have you done to update the food or experience?
When Chet asked me to take over in 1977, he knew that I would keep it going just as it was. Basically, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I did add the catch of the day so I could have some flexible creativity everyday, and I super-sized the seafood platters.

You give a lot of good technique advice for prepping seafood. Is there anything you suggest leaving to the professionals?
Anything you aren’t comfortable doing. Shucking oysters and clams can be dangerous, so either have the fishmonger do it or get some instruction.

How close are these recipes to the ones you used in the restaurant?
I actually spent about a year writing my own recipes and simplifying the ones that we used in the restaurant. Home Port relies on fresh seafood, so there are only so many recipes to go around. A lot of the variations are my personal recipes.

What are the can’t miss recipes in your book?
The chowder is awesome. Several publications have given it awards, and it’s really great. Stuffed quahogs is also a good one. Everything is simple and doable and there’s something for everyone.

What is everything better with?
Butter. Julia Child and Paula Deen have it right. Luckily in New England, the seafood is so fresh that you don’t need much more to make it better.

Will Holtham retired in 2008 after 31 years at Home Port. He splits his time between Maine, South Carolina, and the Cape. This is his first book, available at amazon.com.