Justin Tempelman is wrapping up a very memorable August at his JT’s On The Bay in the Blue Point Marina.
He’s fresh off a lengthy appearance on FIOS 1’s popular Restaurant Hunter show with Rob Petrone, which featured JT’s signature Lobster Mac & Cheese.
And just two weeks ago he threw a big bash on the water.
The occasion? 10 years on the Bay.
And the owner/executive chef is still pinching himself.
“My dream was always to own a waterfront restaurant,” he said. “I love boating. I love surfing. I just love being at the beach and outside.”
His theory goes like this: If you’re going to work like a dog, do it by the water.
“I have my boat right outside my kitchen,” he said.
That’s also where his last boat was docked when he and his dad, Van, arrived to town and learned Blue Point’s only waterfront restaurant space was becoming available.
They smelled the burgers. They heard the reggae music.
“I was like, this is the spot,” he recalled. “And I pretty much just took over the restaurant,” which was then the Blue Point Oyster Factory.
That was 27 days before Memorial Day in 2007.
JT’s has since become the longest-tenured restaurant at 1 Curtis Road, which opened in 1978 as the original Cull House location, he said.
Tempelman launched his first solo project, JT’s Corner Café, in 1998 in his hometown of Nesconset after several years in a corporate hospitality setting.
He said it took about two years, then the place became a breakfast sensation.
But he and his wife, Michelle, later moved the family to Blue Point and JT’s on the Bay opened within the year.
He sold JT’s Corner Café, which is now the Corner Café, in 2014.
The secret of his success on the waterfront, he says, can be attributed to an emphasis on quality food and some core employees that have been with him since the beginning, despite it being a seasonal location.
That, and the continued support of his friends and family.
His dad handles the handyman work at JT’s on the Bay, as well as Tempelman’s new JT’s Cafe on Montauk Highway in Blue Point.
His daughter, Elizabeth, 15, and son, Trevor, 11, also work or help out.
“And I have a 2-year-old and she pretty much owns the place,” he laughed.
They’ve also recently held fundraisers for leukemia research. Tempelman’s mom, Jane, died from the disease just days before his baby girl, Dylan Jane Tempelman, was born.
At this month’s big 10th year anniversary party, JT’s teamed up with the Blue Point Brewing Company for a fundraiser that involved creating tie-dyed shirts with orange ribbons on the sleeves. The orange ribbon is a symbol of leukemia awareness.
“It was great day,” he said.
He’s also forever grateful to the Svendsen family, Blue Point Marina’s longtime owners.
“We have such a good relationship with them,” he said. “This is a special place. This is a neighborhood hangout. This is the neighborhood’s clubhouse.
“And it just gets busier and busier; I wish I could expand but there’s nowhere to go.”
Editor’s note: JT’s On The Bay is open seven days a week through Labor Day weekend, after which the bar and restaurant will be open only Fridays, Saturday, and Sundays.
Those weekend hours will be in effect until the Monday after Columbus Day.
JT’s then closes for good until the mid-May, before Mother’s Day.