The Duke Of The Restaurant Industry

Richard Lewin

“All these people are doing all of these wonderful things to fight cancer. All the things they’re doing enhance people’s lives and enable them to live longer. Whereas I’m just giving people a good time. I’m certainly honored to be honored by such a prestigious group,” said restauranteur Ian Duke, who will be lauded at the Hamptons Happening benefit for the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation on Saturday, July 13.

Ten years ago, Duke was introduced to Samuel and Marion Waxman, both through the annual event and the community. Admiring all of the research work the organization does (see article on page B26), he became involved a little more every year with his now three establishments: Southampton Social Club, Union Cantina, and Union Burger Bar. Duke’s name has become synonymous with success in the restaurant industry, both in Southampton and New York City, and is known for his hands-on charitable involvement.

With the Social Club, Duke created a restaurant mentality that was more than nightlife. The club aimed “to welcome everyone who wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” he said, yet the club upped the ante with a dress code.

The establishment gained a reputation for being respectful, charitable, and part of the community. This reputation carried over when Duke opened up Union Cantina a short distance away. “It was almost as if the village supporting us, as we have supported them,” he said.

The final installation was the opening of Burger Bar, attached to Union Cantina. Both Duke and Chef Scott Kampf saw the opportunity to expand on their existing space.

In addition to his East End experience, Duke lends his hand with several of his restaurants in New York City, including his personal favorite, Prohibition, a live music venue and restaurant. “I have the pleasure of saying it’s one of my favorite places to go in Manhattan,” he said. His other favorite place is Lucky’s Famous Burgers, and an upcoming project set to open in August, The Baylander — an old naval helicopter carrier docked up near Columbia University. A beer garden-style environment, the boat will remain docked and is set to be a truly unique experience.

“The key to handling all of it is having an amazing team of people. The staff I have the pleasure and grace to work with are all amazing. The team of people that I’m surrounded with are truly what makes the difference, in every capacity. I’m the least important guy in my restaurant,” Duke concluded. “We are what we need to be. Today I’ve already been a plumber and a TV repair man. Everyone takes on what’s needed.”

Learn more about the 15th annual Hamptons Happening at

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