We feed off the energy of our partners – our community partners, our product partners, our farm partners. After all, we choose to work with them because they’re as obsessed with their craft as we are with ours. One of those partners: Satur Farms. When it really comes down to it, we’re proud of our food and we believe in knowing where it’s coming from. And we believe you should know, too.
We recently started partnering with Satur Farms to source baby arugula, baby spinach, and mesclun mix for our recently launched Union Square spot in NYC. We visited the duo behind this thriving lettuce hub on the North Fork of Long Island, and quickly got hooked on their partnership.
Eberhard Müller and Paulette Satur began their respective careers as a prestigious chef and a celebrated wine pro — but the cards shifted the moment they met.
Eberhard cut his teeth as the opening chef at Le Bernardin when it made its New York debut in the mid-’80s, championing the classics and innovating with some of the first tartares and carpaccios to reach the US. And he eventually went on to spend time at Lutèce, where he met Paulette. That’s where things got good.
Eberhard talks of that evening with quiet enthusiasm. He noticed a striking woman and her friend dining that evening, and made a point to come by as their meal progressed, staying a while to chat and laugh as they discovered overlapping careers in the culinary realm.
In reality, the farming lifestyle that awaited the two of them wasn’t such a stretch. Paulette grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, and she boasts degrees in horticulture and plant physiology. Before she met Eberhard, those degrees had guided her to a highly respected career in the wine industry. But through years of sampling some of the best wines in the world and guiding restaurants in developing their wine programs, she always knew she wanted something different. She wanted a farm on Long Island, where she could grow “the whole alphabet, everything from asparagus to zucchini.”
As for Eberhard, he “knew when [he] was 8 years old that [he] wanted to get into food.”
“My parents owned the local bakery. There was only one bakery and one butcher shop in our town of Baden-Baden in the south of Germany. There were 800 people in the whole town. And yet somehow there were four breweries. I had four brothers and every Saturday night our dad would send us to pick up one 2-liter of beer.”
“I knew food was what I wanted to do with my life.”
And so Eberhard looked Paulette up in that reservation book, and before too long, they got married. That same year, 1997, they purchased their original 18-acre farm — Satur Farms — on the North Fork of Long Island. They found a rhythm in visiting their space on weekends — but they were far from full-time farmers. It wasn’t until around 2005 that Paulette made the leap to farming full-time, and Eberhard followed her in 2006. They couldn’t fully forfeit the Manhattan lifestyle that had been so formative in their histories — Eberhard was a Paris-trained, NYC-formed chef, after all. Sleep was more of a wishlist item than a reality.
Paulette described how, in those in-between years, the two would dash out to Long Island late on Saturday nights after the restaurant had closed, help to pick and package their thriving crops, and be driving back down Park Avenue for deliveries by Monday morning. After a few years of this manic pace (word had gotten out about Paulette and Eberhard’s crops, and their goods were drawing increasing demand in restaurant kitchens across Manhattan), the couple finally sold their NYC apartment in 2011.
Eberhard has settled into the peace of Long Island with barely a hiccup.
“These days, I get up at 4am. By 9pm, I’m done. In NYC, I was going to sleep at 4am.”
Over the years, their original 18 acres have blossomed to more than 250 acres across the North Fork, not to mention 500-plus additional acres in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where the couple follows the growing cycle south each winter. The Long Island Sound and the Peconic have made their base in Cutchogue a renowned growing region since the earliest days of European settlement and farming.
Of course, these waterfront acres have garnered their fair share of seedy stories over the years of abutting the City. Eberhard mentioned that there used to be a steel cable along the top of the ridge that lines some of the fields. He asked one of the elders in the area about it and learned that it used to be a stop for Canadians bringing bootleg alcohol in during Prohibition. Eberhard laughed at the thought of ‘20s-era farmers “making a pretty penny putting potatoes on top of booze to bring into Manhattan.”
Eberhard and Paulette have much more than great stories to share, though. Their commitment to quality was apparent from the moment we set foot on their fields.
As with any farming endeavor, this all starts with seeds. But unlike nearly everyone else in their region and even across the country, Eberhard and Paulette are setting themselves apart in the quality of the seeds they’re sourcing. They work with one of the premiere Dutch seed companies to source their selections — there’s even a Cutchogue seed variety in the works — and they’re the only growing hub in America that uses all the original regional spring mix varieties.
After planting and cultivating and harvesting, every head of gorgeous lettuce makes its way from their field to a 40,000-square-foot facility that’s kept at a brisk 36 to 38 degrees — always. Everything gets washed not once, not twice, but three times, and the difference comes to life in your bowl.
So what’s their favorite crop? Eberhard refused to make that call. “In the morning, at 6 or 6:30am when I’m out with the guys doing the production and writing what needs to be harvested, I’ll go around and sample the flavors.
“There’s no runaway favorite. It really depends on what I had for dinner the night before — and how much to drink.”
It’s clear that Eberhard and Paulette are bringing something more to the table. Yes, they’ve learned a lot about growing tactics and seed preferences and crop rotation over the years. They’ve cultivated a committed, highly talented team that travels with them when they journey to Florida each winter. They’ve become the premiere baby lettuce grower in the region. But ultimately, they’re the best because of their beginnings, because of their blended histories in fine French cuisine, in renowned international wines, in the nuanced art of hospitality. Eberhard explained confidently:
“I grow a product for taste and texture. I know what I like and what I like is what you should want. I’ve been in food for 40 years. I know what tastes good.”
This isn’t hubris. It’s informed, infectious confidence. Because their lettuces do taste different. They tasted different when plucked straight from the field and nibbled enthusiastically by our team as we traversed the vibrant rows. And they taste different when they reach your bowl just a day or so later, brimming with crisp, flavor-dense leaves.Paulette and Eberhard may have crafted impressive careers before beginning this new chapter, but this is far from a mid-life hobby. The momentum and effort they put into their business every day is palpable. When we asked whether the sparkling Peconic Sound practically screaming beach day at their doorstep is a temptation, they laughed.
“We’re farmers. Maybe on Christmas or New Year’s Day, we’ll go to the beach. But probably not. There’s so much to do.”