After two years in France, Hyde returned to the U.S. to become chef at the Jupiter Island Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla. One of his triumphs there was a chicken poached inside a pig's bladder, which he prepared for Sir Osbert Sitwell and Marshall Field. Hyde had brought a supply of pig bladders back from France. When he tried to import some more on a later trip, U.S. Customs seized them, and ever since he has had to make do with ones gotten from local slaughterhouses. Once while he was cooking at Chalet Frascati in Santa Monica, Calif., he procured some bladders, cleaned them, blew them up through a stick of macaroni and set them out to dry on a clothesline. One of them got away and sailed over the fence like an expiring balloon. Hyde's wife, Gail, ran next door, shouting to the neighbors, "Excuse me, but one of my husband's bladders just landed in your yard."
Hyde spent a summer as head chef at the Misquamicut Club in Watch Hill, R.I., but then quit to work once again as an assistant because "I felt I had to learn a great deal more." Cole Porter wrote a letter of introduction to Le Pavilion in Manhattan, but Hyde says, "It was the wrong way to come in. I should have entered through the cellar." He was shunted off to the Waldorf in 1956 as assistant sauce cook and afterward spent a year at the Brussels. A little while later had decided to teach cooking at UCLA. When his mother's home in Sneden's Landing fell vacant, he returned East to teach in the family mansion known as The Old Library because it had served as one in the 19th century. Built in 1685, the house was also celebrated as a meeting place of George Washington and Lafayette. Although Washington had never slept there, he had eaten there. Hyde's classes were held in the enormous kitchen with its original fireplace.
In a roundup of cooking schools,
The New York Times
went beyond the city line to include Hyde's because his classes had "too much merit." Similarly another Manhattan food expert wrote, "It is not my custom to concern myself with matters beyond the limits of my own borough, but I have an excuse in this case—that I would go a lot farther afield than Rockland County to find a teacher with Mr. Hyde's combined gifts for cooking and teaching."
In 1966 Hyde gave up his classes to cater full time and shifted his kitchen from The Old Library to a sort of miniature palace nearby built by his uncle, Eric Gugler, an architect and designer of the executive offices in the West Wing of the White House. There amid historic frescoes, triumphant arches and heroic busts, Hyde turns out smoked bluefish, stuffed eggs, poached salmon, orange mousse and other dishes that can be prepared prior to a dinner party. Hyde is thus well prepared when he arrives at a client's house with his staff of six, headed by Selma Andersen, a brisk Swedish woman who superintends the table setting while the chef himself prepares the canap�s, heats the oven for the saddles of lamb, saut�s endives air-expressed from Belgium and chops shallots. Hyde never goes anywhere without shallots. Just in case he might find them unavailable, he keeps a supply in the glove compartment of his truck. "And I always have kosher salt with me," he says. "I just love the feel of it."
Hyde has cooked and catered in all sorts of places. At a manufacturing plant, he asked to use a forklift truck to serve the appetizers. When the Broadway musical Camelot opened, he did the party for lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. He has catered parties for the Josh Logans, including one in honor of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones. Jones was so pleased that he shook the hand of one of Hyde's assistants under the impression that he was Hyde. "Another first for Chef Joe Hyde," says Hyde, who sometimes refers to himself in the third person when things go awry.
Occasionally Hyde falls out with a client. Robert Montgomery objected to the bill, and Carter Burden, the social New York City Councilman, wrote Hyde several letters complaining he could not find the persimmon ice cream that was to be left behind.
Every so often Hyde does a dinner for the New York Mycological Society. The mushroom enthusiasts often show up with unusual fungi, and they joyously sing their anthem:
"Deep, deep in the murky shadows,
There where the slime mold creeps,
With joy the stout mycologist
His pallid harvest reaps."
A year and a half ago Hyde and Everett Poole, who runs a fish market in Menemsha, on the Vineyard, began turning out a line of frozen fish and shellfish dishes, prepared by "Famous Chef Joe Hyde." They sell soups, chowders, bouillabaisse, Menemsha thermidor (lobster and fish) and stuffed clams direct to customers or through fancy food stores in cities in the East, Midwest and West. (While Hyde objects to many frozen foods, he believes these dishes, prepared his way, i.e., with juices to conserve fresh taste, are worthy of a first-class chef.) One Vineyard resident went to three dinner parties in a week, and all the hostesses passed off Hyde's dishes as their own. They should know better, the Vineyard being true Hyde territory. It is there that Hyde does some truly debatable things. For example, he will take one of his antique bass boats and head south five miles for the deserted island called No Mans Land. When Hyde gets to No Mans, he either trolls off the beach or goes ashore for a stroll. There is only one difficulty. No Mans Land is used as a bombing and target range by the armed forces. Hyde rather likes trolling offshore, especially when the planes are strafing. With the fastidious taste of a haiku poet, he is fond of describing the puffs of smoke that are emitted from the wings of an attacking plane.
But for all this joie de vivre, he has moments of depression. On occasion he wonders if he does not repeat himself too much with menus. A couple of years ago he got so depressed by this thought that he consulted a psychiatrist. The doctor was elated because Hyde had such an unusual cause for depression. "People are eating your art!" the psychiatrist exclaimed. To which Hyde adds, "That was still another first for Chef Joe Hyde."