Cyprus-born Yannis Papagianni has seen the town of Montauk change tenfold in his years there, but you can also thank him for the influx of culture, art, and culinary excellence that now permeates The End. As the food and beverage director of Montauk Beach House and the co-founder of nearby Left Hand Coffee, Papagianni ensures the hospitality ventures are perfecting a recipe that visitors and locals alike actually need.
How did a European find his way to Montauk?
I was born in Cyprus. I was escaping and somehow ended up in Montauk! Life is a huge circle. I lived in NYC for 20 years, but I came out to the little island. I started working at The Surf Lodge in 2009.
That must feel like another lifetime!
Back then, the town was very different. No one even took credit cards! There was one ATM and it would run out of money by Thursday, so there’d be no cash!
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What are some of your favorite memories from back then?
Life was a little simpler. Everything was a little more local, more mom-and-pop shops. We used to all go to O’Sullivan’s at 4 a.m. and get breakfast after work. Now it’s totally different, but I like the fact that so many great places and restaurants have opened up.
How did you become involved with Montauk Beach House?
I met Larry Siedlick, the owner, through a common friend. At the time, Larry was doing some regime changing. He asked me what I thought. I said I loved it—I used to come here as a customer—but I told him what else needed to be done right and he agreed with me. He asked me if I wanted to come on board, and I started with the hotel in 2014. We opened Left Hand Coffee the following year!
What were those changes you recommended, and how have you implemented them?
To focus more on hospitality, and less on the party side hotel, and we’ve got a brand-new garden, sponsored by Tanqueray. It’s perfect for intimate events, like a sunset toast or vow renewals. We have another artist, Johnny Miller, redoing the mural behind the DJ booth, too.
Is incorporating more art a new focus for the hotel?
It’s not a new focus, but it’s matured on its own in a way. I think the fact that there was a bit of a buzz about the artist collaborations means we’re now being approached by bigger names.
What’s coming up?
On September 11, we will be hosting the annual AWOW “Give a Sea of Love” fundraiser, which benefits A Walk on Water, a nonprofit organization that provides surf therapy for children and young adults with special needs. We’ve been a proud sponsor and host since 2015. Our own creative director, Walt Lindveld, is the team lead of the East Coast chapter, and his son, Clash, is also an AWOW athlete.
Tell us some new food and beverage highlights. We’re eyeing that Serafina tiramisu!
I hear from guests that they think the food has changed so much. They just love it! Serafina is a restaurant that I worked in when I first moved here, and I always liked the tiramisu. We give it out to guests, and it’s a nice touch. The pizza here is amazing, too!
Before you go, tell us how you take your coffee.
I drink way too much to have milk in it! My ritual is two espressos in the morning, followed by a cold brew and another espresso in the afternoon.
Then I have to cut myself off, but with 14 or 15 hour days, it’s nonstop!