"Excellent" -The New York Times
About Chef Doug
Chef Doug Gulija started his Culinary Career as many do by washing dishes. He started at the Old Mill restaurant in Southampton, NY when he was 13 and was taken under the wing of a French Chef from Burgundy. Chef Jean expected a lot out of Doug, but he also taught him a lot, giving him more and more responsibility each year. It wasn’t until a short lived college basketball career that forced him to make a career path change that he entered culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Providence, RI. that he realized just how much Chef Jean had really taught him. ‘I knew how to make hollandaise, pate choux, demi glace….and was so surprised that many of my fellow classmates couldn’t even pronounce some of these techniques much less execute them.
Upon graduation Doug tried the corporate life and started his career with Marriott Hotels under the tutelage of his mentor Chef Peter Montgomery. It was here that he was provided an environment by Chef Montgomery to really learn and develop his culinary skills. It was also here that he was provided with the business knowledge to successfully operate a kitchen. ‘I got the best of both worlds while at Marriott without even realizing it.’ He eventually left Marriott Hotels to take on his first Head Chef position at The California Grille in Glen Head where he caught the eye of then Vatel Club President Jean Yves Piquet, aka ‘The Godfather’.
Chef Piquet was an extremely influential Chef from the NY Athletic Club in Manhattan who helped countless Chefs in NYC get their start. For whatever reason he saw something in Doug and set up a Stage for him at the venerable Le Grand Vefour in Paris which was the turning point for Doug’s career. Although it was very strenuous and he was there for only there a short while he knew then and there that he had made the right career move. The attention to detail, the quality of the ingredients, the discipline of the brigade system, the respect for both traditional techniques as well as for innovation all inspired Chef Gulija to begin his quest back home.
Back home in the States Doug had his ticket all punched and ready to go as Chef Piquet set him up at the Four Seasons, but Doug’s wife Andi had other plans as they were expecting their second child and she wanted to raise the children in
Doug’s home town of Southampton and not Manhattan. This threw Doug for a loop as the area was so seasonal, but he made the best of it. He started off as Sous Chef at Mirko’s Restaurant in Watermill where he helped them garner their third star from Long Island Newsday. He then took a position as Chef de Cuisine of the original Laundry restaurant in East Hampton and then landed the Head Chef position at a new restaurant in East Hampton called Monterey Seafood Grill where he received two stars from Long Island Newsday, no small accomplishment considering it was not uncommon to serve close to 400 covers on a busy weeknight.
But the opportunity soon came to start his own place in Southampton with his wife Andi, and The Plaza Café was born. It was here after some twenty plus years of experience that Doug finally felt comfortable being called Chef “This title is a right of passage with a strong history that many take very lightly today, but I did not’” The initial intention was to have a casual, low key restaurant that focused on local and sustainable seafood. But the accolades soon turned The Plaza Café into a fine dining destination. Today though Doug has returned to the original plan with what he calls a ‘Return to Cooking’ and not getting caught up in so much of the nonsense of this profession. And as one restaurant critic put it “Chef Gulija feels at ease.”
About the Plaza Cafe:
Doug Gulija and his wife Andi opened The Plaza Café in 1997 with the goal of creating a casual, New American Restaurant that focused on fresh, sustainable seafood creations. ‘We opened in the dead of winter to get the kinks out’ and by the summer of 1998 The Plaza Café had garnered an ‘Excellent’ Three Star Review from the New York Times and an ‘Excellent’ Three Star Review from Long Island Newsday as well as being listed in the Zagat Survey’s Top Restaurants in America.
The menu not only changes with the seasons but may change a little bit each day in order to take advantage of the freshest seafood available both locally and in the markets. Sustainability is a very key factor in the daily selections. The presentations are fresh and simple and supported by seasonal produce with the star of the plate being the fish. Rarely is a dish comprised of more than three complementing flavor profiles and the vegetable accompaniments always make for an interesting vegetarian option on their own. There are always at least a few ‘land’ alternatives and they are always either grass fed, organic and/or free range
The wine list is eclectic with most of the list being devoted to small production wineries. ‘I am not a sommelier in any way shape or form, but I look for balanced wines that speak of a time and place.’ And almost every wine on the list has a ‘story’ as to why it was selected, be it because it was from one of the local wineries that The
Plaza Café has supported from the outset or because of a Vintner Dinner that was hosted with a particular winery, or just because a friendship was made during a casual tasting.
The service is ‘fine dining’ but not pretentious and the dining room is airy with a beachy feel. The service credo is to provide guests with what they need before they have to ask for it. ‘We want our guests to be relaxed, forget their problems and enjoy their dining experience with us without even realizing they are being served.’
As The Plaza Café enters twenty plus years, it has come full circle in many ways.
After the passing of his wife in 2010, Doug took a hard look as to what he thought Andi would have wanted him to do, and he came to the conclusion that she would want him to continue what they started, but maybe with a more casual approach, just as they had originally planned.
Today The Plaza Café is ‘recharged’ and was quoted as being ‘the best Seafood House on Long Island’ in Mr. Peter Gianotti’s follow up three and half star review. The decision to take a lighter approach seems to have paid off. “With the loss of my wife I have a totally new outlook on life and I am now really focused on what is truly important. I guess you can say it is kind of a Return to Cooking in a way where all that matters is taking care of my guests, my team and my purveyors….everything else is secondary and will take care of itself . ‘When you come to The Plaza Café,
"You are coming to my Home and you are a guest at my Table where I hope to not only provide you with a memorable dining experience but allow you to forget all your worries if even for just a few hours. Zivili!”
PLAZA CAFÉ Awards and Notable Recognition
December 1997 The Plaza Café served its first Meal
July 1998: Three Stars/Excellent from Long Island Newsday
August 1998: Three Stars/ Excellent from The New York Times
April 2000: James Beard House Luncheon
June 2001: Ten Best East End Eateries by New York Magazine
Since 2002: Zagat Surveys America’s Top Restaurants`
June 2002: News 12 Feature on Chefs and Champagne
July 2002: James Beard House Chefs and Champagne Honoring Chef Daniele Boluld
July 2006: James Beard House Chefs and Champagne Honoring Chef Thomas Keller
May 2010: Food Network: Great American Seafood Cook Off Support Victims of Hurricane Katrina
August 2, 2013: Top Seafood Restaurant on Long Island from L.I. Newsday
May 2012: ‘My Favorite restaurant’ Social Life Magazine
June 2012: ‘A Fresh Start’ Edible East End
August 24, 2012: Three and Half Stars/Excellent from Long Island Newsday
December 2014: Trip Advisor Award of Excellence
June 2015: Travel Channel: Best Local Seafood Restaurant
December 2015: Open Table Dinners Choice Award
July 2016: ‘Hidden Gem’ Beach Magazine
June 2017: Long Island ‘s Essential Seafood Restaurant from L.I. Newsday
About The New Food Truck
THE PLAZA CAFÉ ‘SEAFOOD SHACK’
The idea behind our new Food Truck is twofold. First and foremost it is our attempt to showcase the fact that we can be as creative doing casual street food as we are in what many refer to as our ‘fine ding restaurant.’
Basically we are looking to have some fun with a laid back approach to preparing the freshest quality seafood we can find. Look for The Seafood Shack at your favorite local winery, special events or right outside the kitchen entrance of The Plaza Café.
The second idea for purchasing the Food Truck is to make it available for catered events as it appears more and more people are seeking out the diversity that food trucks can bring to their private events. In this role we can customize a menu to your needs or we can just do our thing. So book The Plaza Café ‘Seafood Jack’ for your next private event.
New for 2018, an exciting addition to the Plaza Cafe family.