What an honor it was to be back in the kitchen of The James beard House last week! I have had the pleasure of cooking at The House on three other occasions, but this experience was especially meaningful to me. Having been born and raised in New Jersey and having traveled and lived in many other parts of this country, I can honestly say that I would not choose to live anywhere else. To be able to cook a dinner that celebrates so many of the wonderful foods that this state has to offer and host it in a place that means so much to my profession was incredibly rewarding.
I grew up in Bay Head at the top of Barnegat Bay and three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t think I could have spent more time in either one of those bodies of water, and fishing was a huge part of that time. We would catch mackerel in the spring, striped bass in early summer, blue fish all summer long, go crabbing, clamming, and fluke fishing any chance we got. These were activities we shared as a family, and now that I have three young children, I am starting to enjoy these same good times with my kids.
Now that I live and work in Bernardsville, the opportunity to be connected with the foods that New Jersey has to offer has become a second act. To be in such proximity to so many farms and such perfectly fresh produce and to be growing some of these items in our own garden is amazing. To provide this experience on the plate for our customers and to share it personally with my children is fantastic.
To take these two elements of my life from the ocean and the farm—and combine them for a dinner at The James Beard House was a truly memorable experience for me. To be cooking in the home of James Beard, a forefather of the American culinary industry, where so many other chefs from around the world have come to cook is awe inspiring. To showcase at this dinner the fish that are so important to the Jersey Shore and the produce that New Jersey is so well known for was perfect. To put this all together to benefit an organization that has brought so much credibility and professionalism to my profession and industry could not make me more proud.