Despite growing up in hilly West Virginia, for star chef Katie Lee, the beach is where the heart is. By, Lindsay Lambert


As a best-selling cookbook author, lifestyle guru, and newly minted novelist—be sure to check out her new book, called “Groundswell”—Katie Lee keeps her plate full. Here, she opens up to Ocean Home about relaxing at her beachfront home in the Hamptons, taking spills on her surfboard, and keeping a close-knit circle of friends well fed.


You grew up in West Virginia, a.k.a. The Mountain State. When looking for a home to purhcase, what drew you to the seaside in Sagaponack? When I was growing up, we spent all year looking forward to our one-week vacation at the beach. I would spend months dreaming of feeling the sand beneath my toes, splashing in the waves, and smelling the salt air. We always went with my grandparents, and my grandpa and I were total beach bums. I love West Virginia, the mountains are breathtaking, and it will always be “home,” but the beach is where my heart is. The Hamptons are the perfect balance for me, because we have undeveloped farm land and that country feel, paired with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.


WhatÂ’s your favorite part of the house and why? The heart of my home is the kitchen. There are so many great farm stands in the area and so much fresh seafood, so I am always cooking. I joke that my house has a revolving door because friends are always dropping by, especially in the summer. Everyone always gravitates to the kitchen. I guess they know they will be well fed!


How does living by the ocean influence your cooking/recipe writing? When I first moved to the Hamptons, I realized I didnÂ’t know enough about cooking seafood. I got a job as a fishmonger at a local seafood market and learned so much. I have a few friends who are excellent fishermen, so there are many summer days that they will drop off their fresh catch and come back for dinner. Just down the beach from me, there is a great spot for crabbing, and I love to do a big crab boil for a bunch of friends. I keep everything very casual and laid back.


Your new book talks about your newfound love of surfing. What inspired you to learn? I decided to try surfing one day when I needed to “get out of my own head,” so to speak, and try something completely out of character. I have never been very athletic, or coordinated for that matter, so I expected it to be a disaster. Though I took my fair share of falls, and often felt like a pair of jeans going through a spin cycle in the washing machine, I loved it. Being in the ocean makes me feel so close to nature, and it is very spiritual for me. And it’s just so FUN!


You’ve been known to describe your personal style with your “three C’s:  casual, comfortable, and with a touch of couture.” How does this apply to your home in Sagaponack? My furniture and decorating style is much like that of my wardrobe. Beach living isn’t meant to be fancy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish. My decor is easy and eclectic, kind of bohemian, with a couple of stand-out antiques and artwork.


WhatÂ’s your favorite time to be on or in the ocean, and why? I like to be in the ocean anytime the waves are good, and I like to be on the beach in the evening. The light is pure magic as the sun sets.