Alyssa Shelasky
August 18, 2008 12:00 PM

At Montauk, N.Y.,’s new Surf Lodge, you’ll dine on lobster rolls and haute fish sticks with such stars as Jerry Seinfeld, Molly Sims, Tyson Beckford, and Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell. You might also know the guy in the kitchen: Top Chef season 2 finalist Sam Talbot. He talked to PEOPLE’s Alyssa Shelasky about his new gig, drunken lobsters, and why flirting is off the menu.

How’s life as a beach bum?

I feel like I’m in a movie. I’ve picked up wakeboarding; it’s like snowboarding in the water. It’s getting me in shape.

What’s the biggest problem you’ve had in opening your own place?

There’s a 500-gal. propane tank you have to fill—who knew? It was Saturday, 8 p.m.; there was no gas. We knocked on someone’s door, and we’re like, “Dude, we have to borrow your gas tank.”

Ever resent being “the cute guy from Top Chef“?

The sex-symbol thing is flattering and funny. But my love life was pretty much good-to-go before.

We hear you’re off the market.

I am happily engaged to a [model and T-shirt designer] named Paola Guerrero. She’s amazing. She’s Colombian. I met her in Brazil on my 30th birthday.

What was the first meal you cooked for her?

She’s a vegetarian, so I whipped up a salad of roasted black chickpeas, pickled watermelon, arugula, lemon and oil vinaigrette. But if your date isn’t a vegetarian, start off with oysters.

Any summer barbecue advice?

Grill seafood. Keep it simple with a basic marinade, like lemon juice and olive oil. Season and serve.

Everyone loves to eat lobster, but no one likes to kill them. Tips?

Buy cheap vodka and soak the lobsters for a few hours. They don’t know it’s coming because they’re basically drunk. Or buy frozen quality lobster meat for a phenomenal lobster roll.

For us non-cooks, what’s an easy way to fake a meal?

Don’t fake it. I like to teach people about good food. As a guy, it’s empowering to show you things. And women should never fake anything.

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