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Euphemia Haye owner has singular goal: Don’t mess with perfection

Amy Whitt, Euphemia Haye’s new owner, plans no big changes. She knows the restaurant is perfect just the way it is.

Amy Whitt worked her way from administrative assistant to owner of this landmark restaurant on Longboat Key.
Amy Whitt worked her way from administrative assistant to owner of this landmark restaurant on Longboat Key.
Photo by Lori Sax
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Euphemia Haye is a Longboat Key institution. 

Chef Ray Arpke and his wife, D’Arcy, acquired it in 1980. Housed in a cozy, historic cottage with intimate, candlelit dining areas downstairs and a lively bar upstairs, Euphemia Haye is celebrated for its outstanding selection of wine and spirits, seasonally influenced menu and elegant ambience. 

The Arpkes hired Amy Whitt in 2007 as an administrative assistant, and she quickly worked her way up to bookkeeper. Crunching numbers was on her mind back then, not the mysteries of haute cuisine. 

If you’d told Amy she’d own Euphemia Haye in the not-too-distant future, she would have laughed out loud. But that’s exactly what happened in 2020 when the Arpkes offered her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to purchase the restaurant upon their retirement. In December 2021, Whitt became the owner of one of the most prestigious eateries in the region.

Becoming the new owner of Euphemia Haye was …

Overwhelming and exciting. I had to jump in whether I knew what I was doing or not. That was the overwhelming part. But going into high gear was also an adrenaline rush — like jumping on a roller coaster and hanging on for dear life. It was a wild ride!

After serving behind the scenes for so many years … 

As the bookkeeper, I had one job to do, and I’d clock out when the night crew came in. Now that I’m the owner, I don’t clock out. I’m here day and night and wear many different hats. When we’ve been short-staffed, I’ve had to work in the kitchen or the bar. I’ve also been a hostess, bused tables and washed dishes. Doing those jobs helped me value everyone who works here. You can’t have the front of a restaurant without the back. Every single position is as important as the next. Every person is, too.

The secret of Euphemia Haye’s popularity is …

Our high standards. At Euphemia Haye, we have to be the best at everything we do. That’s our standard — and we hold to it.

The biggest change I’ve made so far is …

Putting mints at the front desk. That’s it. Euphemia Haye’s not broken, and I don’t intend to fix it. It’s perfect exactly the way it is. 

Roast duckling is among the signature dishes at Euphemia Haye.
Courtesy image
My changes to the menu include …

Zero changes. Once again, I refuse to mess with perfection. The popular dishes that bring people in are here to stay. There are seasonal changes in our salads and pastas, of course. But the core items in our menu won’t change.

Don’t leave Euphemia Haye without trying …

If I’m limited to one choice, Key West Snapper is my personal favorite. You could always leave and come back, and try some of our other signature dishes, like duck and our peppered steak. 

My insider tip for savvy Euphemia Haye diners is …

Save room for dessert. Most newcomers don’t know that we have a full dessert room upstairs. 

I start every workday by ….

Saying hello to every single person and giving them a smile. If they don’t smile back, I’ll say, “Let me see it.” They know exactly what I’m talking about, and I won’t leave until I get a smile from them — and I always do. Keep spreading the good energy. That starts off the workday on a positive note. 

I’m not a foodie but…

I cook at home. But just basic things — I’m not a “chef.” Though, that might be changing. My Euphemia Haye experience has opened me up to trying new things. My shelf of cookbooks is growing. So, I may have foodie tendencies.

When I’m not working, I love …

Working! Seriously. If I’m not working at the restaurant, I’m working from home or running errands for the restaurant. I try to have dinner with friends at least once a week. Other than that, I’m either working or sleeping.

My culinary inspirations/heroes are…

Chef Ray. Seeing him work his magic in the kitchen — always creating new recipes and tweaking them until they’re perfect was a constant inspiration to me. I knew a few big names, but celebrity chefs weren’t on my radar before I met him. Chef Ray is my culinary hero.

When Chef Ray and D’Arcy stop by for dinner…

Chef Ray will tell me how much he misses Euphemia Haye’s pizzas. Their visits are dropping off, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s a sign Ray’s finally starting to enjoy the retired life. It’s also a sign Ray thinks his restaurant is in good hands and running smoothly. If Ray was worried about it, he’d be here constantly. Then I’d be worried!



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.

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