Urs Reist, longtime owner of the Swiss Country Inn on Route 44/55 Gardiner, is now the head chef at Murphy’s Bar and Restaurant in downtown New Paltz, where he has quickly gained a large, loyal following. A graduate of the Swiss Culinary School, Reist got his start in many five-star restaurants in his native country as well as Canada, and eventually the US, when he moved to Dobbs Ferry and ultimately went to work at the Chateau Hawthorne in Warwick in the 1980s. But like many great chefs, after working for other people for so long, he wanted to start his own restaurant — which he did, opening the Swiss Country Inn at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains in 1990. He sold the business in 2006.
Although he is Swiss-trained, Reist said that he’s more than comfortable in an Irish pub and restaurant, because at the “Swiss culinary we were trained to be experts in French, Italian, Irish and German cuisine, as we are located in central Europe.”
Where are you from, originally?
What makes New Paltz unique?
The little mountains. [Having come from Switzerland, he calls them “hills.”] It’s a great region with Mohonk, Minnewaska, all of the biking, hiking and outdoor activities.
What do you like about this community?
Everybody is nice! It’s a very friendly community.
What is your favorite hangout?
Murphy’s! But I do treat myself every now and again to one of our sushi restaurants. We’re fortunate to have three great sushi restaurants in our small town!
Tell us something we never would have guessed about you.
I’m an Elvis fan. I used to yodel and sing Elvis tunes at my old restaurant.
What keeps you here?
The friendships I’ve made, first through the Swiss Country Inn, and now those same friends and customers come here.
What would you change?
I want to change the perception that Murphy’s has just bar food. We have a fresh fish Catch of the Day. Everything is homemade. We have the best burgers in town, the hottest wings in Ulster County, great lunches with sandwiches, fresh soup, wraps, salads…
Where would we find you on Sunday mornings?
Here [at Murphy’s], in the kitchen.
What is your favorite virtue?
Patience. I’m very calm, not like most chefs. The kitchen can be a stressful place, but you have to maintain a calm presence.
What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
NASCAR driving. I’m a big NASCAR fan, and now we have a woman who might win it all!
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here?
Bruce Blatchly. He was my customer for a long time, my lawyer and someone I consider a friend. A very bright and interesting man.
What qualities do you admire most in others?
That they are respectful and friendly. I also admire cleanliness and good hygiene!
What is your idea of happiness?
Besides cooking? Playing pool with friends after work and golfing in the summer. I find that very relaxing.
What is your idea of misery?
Not being healthy. Not being able to cook. It’s my passion.
What talent do you wish you had been given?
To be a great doctor!
What is your main fault?
I don’t know. I’m just a perfect person! [laughs].
For which fault do you have the most tolerance?
Inexperience. You need to have patience with young people who are new in the restaurant business. They can get very stressed out, and you need to be patient and calm and help them learn.
What is your favorite motto?
Come see Urs for German Night at Murphy’s on Tuesdays!