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Interview

A Weekend with Loaves and Fishes with Sybille van Kempen

Few people can say that they published a book during quarantine — and even fewer can say that they published three for every season.

Few people can say that they published a book during quarantine — and even fewer can say that they published three for every season. Sybille van Kempen, Hampton restauranteur and family foodie, spent her 2020 collaborating with chef Licia Kassim Householder on a series of cookbooks celebrating farm-to-table ingredients and meals. Like many of her business endeavors, cookbooks run in the family.

Sybille came to the US at age 4 when her family left Wanderup, a German town on the Danish border. Her mother, Anna Pump, opened the first family business, Loaves & Fishes Foodstore, in 1980. Having inherited the timeless Scandinavian touch as well as plenty of recipes, Sybille penned The Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook with her mother in 1990. Two more restaurants, a dozen cookbooks, and plenty of recipes later, Sybille continues to lead by her mother’s example.

While her own children have taken over management and mixology positions in the family business, she also continues to provide farm-fresh food and recipes to her local community and beyond. Find some of Sybille’s farm-fresh tips & family favorites below.

Saturday ritual?

Owning retail businesses means Saturday is a super busy day that starts off earlier than most. My husband Gerrit and I are both up with the sun. Then, a foamy coffee for him and a delicious large mug of tea with milk and honey for me with the paper. After that, I walk and feed our two beautiful Great Danes, followed by a dip in the pool May through October.

My beauty ritual is simple: soap, shampoo and plenty of hot water! Stepping out with our best foot forward, we each head for our own locations. Gerrit oversees our Loaves and Fishes Cookshop, and I enter the back kitchen door of Loaves and Fishes in Sagaponack with pride and a warm “good morning” for all!

This is one of my favorite parts of the day, when I can share meaningful moments with our customers – some I know so well, while others are brand new to us.

By 3 p.m., I have finished my work at the food store and move on to the Bridgehampton Inn and Restaurant, where I find another amazing team getting ready for dining under the stars in all seasons. Gerrit and I meet for an early dinner together to test the new menu, which changes every month. Chef Brian continues to delight us with delicious and unexpected dishes—a culinary genius, joyful in his ventures.

Gerrit then heads home to feed those hungry pups and I stay for a few hours to welcome our guests. This is one of my favorite parts of the day, when I can share meaningful moments with our customers – some I know so well, while others are brand new to us. There are so many beautiful celebrations and stories to be retold.

Sunday run or relax?

RELAX for the first few hours. Typically, I’m lingering over The New York Times Sunday sections and a delicious breakfast of perhaps a soft boiled egg, my daughter’s cinnamon bread toast, and that large mug of sweet tea! We both return to our shops for the day, enjoying a slower pace. Today, I have more time to show our customers my new farm cookbook series, sharing the story of their creation, with my co-author Licia Kassim Householder (also my executive pastry chef). Standing in my shop, surrounded by abundant farm fields, brings the farmer’s stories and our recipes to life.

Experience that with us if you can visit and follow our journey of the 12 farm series books throughout the year!

Your everyday beauty routine?

I use Bobbi Brown Gel Moisturizer daily on my face and neck, and Nivea for all else. Additional fragrances are not welcome in the kitchen, where the smells of food are my intoxication. Drinking plenty of water is a steady routine I do without thinking.

Favorite homemade meal?

Something fresh from the grill in summer, and a warm pasta dish in winter. Food from the grill is magical; it transforms into the most satisfying amalgamation of textures and flavors because of the sear. The charred crisp exterior explodes with juices and amazing flavor when released with a razor-edged knife. Warm pasta is one of my all-time favorites any time of year, topped with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano—real comfort food for me!

The casting for a perfect dinner party?

My mother, Anna Pump, for her culinary curiosity and genius at entertaining. My father, Detlef Pump, for the beautiful spirit and wonderful conversationalist he was. And finally, my three grown children, each with a guest of their choice. Always interesting if it’s an awkward mix!

What are your top five dos and don’ts for hosting a perfect dinner?

Don’t:

  • Prepare a dish you have not tried before.
  • Leave more than one or two items to finish at the last minute.
  • Plan an outdoor event without plan B.
  • Forget to turn off the sprinklers for your garden party.
  • Hesitate to hire your friends’ teenagers to help with serving and cleanup.

Do:

  • Use place cards to insure a spirited evening for all. Consider which guests will enjoy each other’s company.
  • Wander the fields and forest or local farm stands for flowers and table decorations.
  • Serve a fabulous desert. I recommend our Mixed Berry Meringue Cake from our July cookbook. Alter the fruit by season.
  • Keep the guest list to 6-10; intimate is best for conversation.
  • Feel most alive and magical, shower and dress just before your guests arrive!

Where can our readers find you?

Visit us at on our website to learn more about the Loaves & Fishes Food Store, Loaves & Fishes Cookshop, and the Bridgehampton Inn and Restaurant. The Loaves & Fishes Farm Series cookbooks are also available for purchase there.

Follow us on Instagram for news and food inspiration at @loavesandfishesfoodstore, @loavesandfishescookshop, and @bridgehamptoninnandrestaurant.

Image Credits: Conor Harrigan

Teresa Deely

Teresa Deely is a graduate from Columbia University with majors in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and marketing assistant working for clients in the wellness, jewelry, creative, and sports industries. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. Spending much of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.

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