Faces Of Nantucket: E.J. Harvey

Waverly Brannigan •

FON EJ Harvey 8
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Years on-island: 42

Favorite things about Nantucket: The community, how it’s laid back and on the water, fishing, cooking, and gardening.

Chef, restaurateur, and family man, Eugene “EJ” Harvey is a name well-recognized in both Nantucket’s culinary scene and around the island community, largely due to the family’s ownership of The Seagrille on Sparks Avenue. Over the years, his commitment to the island and the restaurant has helped it become a favorite for locals and visitors alike, prioritizing fine dining in a setting where everyone feels welcome.

Originally from Newport, Rhode Island, Harvey honed his culinary skills at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated from in 1975. His early career saw him traverse various high-end resorts, working under European chefs and learning the intricacies of fine dining at RockResorts properties including in Caneel Bay, St. John, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the Woodstock Inn in Vermont.

“I learned a lot there,” Harvey says. “They were very, very high-end at the time.”

Harvey spent most of his time at RockResorts working under a German chef, whose strictness taught him the importance of remaining disciplined in the culinary world. His tenure at these esteemed establishments laid a strong foundation for the chef positions and restaurant ownership roles he would eventually hold on Nantucket.

FON EJ Harvey 12
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

After starting a family while in Woodstock, E.J. and his wife, the late Robin Harvey, moved to Nantucket shortly after their first daughter was born in 1982. Recommended by the Woodstock Inn to Phil Reed, who was the owner at the time of the Jared Coffin House in downtown Nantucket, Harvey accepted the job of chef at the establishment to ensure stability for his growing family.

Quickly after moving to the island, Harvey felt right at home. “I grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, so I’ve always been a seafood person and a fisherman… so that was a natural thing for me,” Harvey explains.

Harvey remained as chef at the Jared Coffin House until 1986, and he quickly built a stellar reputation for himself. His success allowed him to open EJ Harvey’s Island Restaurant after taking over the establishment next to The Chicken Box, which had previously been known as Jean's Restaurant.

FON EJ Harvey 11
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

While running EJ Harvey’s Island Restaurant, Harvey watched The SeaGrille as it was built across the street from him, then called Everybody’s. The restaurant opened and closed several times, and when they were looking for a chef, Harvey jumped at the opportunity.

Being part of Nantucket’s restaurant scene in the 1980s and 90s allowed Harvey to learn from some of the best. He recalls when restaurants and chefs were synonyms, naming Chick Walsh of 21 Federal, Joe Pantorno and Michael Shannon of the Club Car, Dexter Tutein of The Woodbox, Pam McKinstry of the Morning Glory, and Johnny Krebs of the Ship’s Inn, all big icons when he was just starting at The SeaGrille.

“There’s only a few other restaurants with the same people running it who have been here longer,” Harvey says. “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, and seen a lot of people who aren’t around anymore, which is kind of tough, you know… some of the great chefs that were here.”

Harvey emphasized that the inspiration behind The SeaGrille has always been family.

“By that time, we had three kids,” Harvey said. “And we needed to make a living. And that's pretty much how we kind of go today, too. It’s providing now for three different families.”

The SeaGrille has been a family affair from the start, with E.J. and Robin working together back in 1991 to create what’s become a well-known island establishment. Since then, Harveys’ children, Adriene, Kari, and Tucker have all pitched in over the years to help grow the restaurant, and when Robin tragically passed away in 2015, Kari and Tucker stepped up in the business, with Tucker now as the head chef and Kari and her husband Zach running the front of the house.

FON EJ Harvey 7
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

“It’s very rewarding, but also can be very difficult,” Harvey laughs. “I’m very fortunate to have all my kids live here.”

A true island restaurant, The Seagrille has always prioritized the local community, from using local produce and seafood to ensuring all employees have housing. Today, it frequently hosts fundraisers alongside the Harvey Foundation, giving back to Nantucket’s youth.

“We’re definitely a big family,” Harvey says. “Our crew does a lot together… I think it helps you have a better attitude when you’re at work. You’re a little bit proud of where you’re staying and where you’re coming to work.”

Though Harvey has now taken a few steps back from the day-to-day operations of The Seagrille, his influence remains strong as he still visits the restaurant daily, whether to help ensure everything is running smoothly or to sit down for a meal. Ensuring the family legacy continues, Harvey’s granddaughter now works at The Seagrille, a source of great pride as all three generations of the family work together.

FON EJ Harvey 6
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

“I probably spent the first 20 years day in and day out there, day in and day out there… and now it’s time to kick back a little bit.”

The Seagrille now represents the dedication, culinary expertise, and deep-rooted family values that define the Harveys. From its humble beginnings to a true island staple, The Seagrille continues to reflect Harveys’ vision and thrive under the stewardship of his children and grandchildren, ensuring the legacy of fine dining and community spirit endures.

FON EJ Harvey 2
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current People