Beautiful, delicious ingredients, carefully assembled for guests to enjoy is what you will find at the JOCEF Recipe for Success fundraiser. An event created to financially help and inspire culinary students.
A big thank you goes out to Rachel Weston, chef, culinary teacher, and author, for covering the event for Flavor Chronicles/ Chefs in Motion, this year. If you would like to read more about how you can attend next years event, information can be found here.
The scent of coconut and curry drew me deep into the ballroom at the Navesink Country Club for the second annual JOCEF fundraiser. As my eyes grew accustomed to the stunning view beyond the windows, my nose led me straight to Marilyn Schlossbach Catering and Events. A tiny Asian takeout container of butter poached lobster curry, basmati rice and vegetables was my first taste of a very enjoyable evening.
Next, I let my eyes guide me to Ye Olde Pie Shoppe where the Little Silver based chef clad in tie-dyed chef’s jacket must have wanted to look as bold as the flavors in the Southern apple cake with warm caramel sauce he was serving.
Front St. Trattoria offered a colorful duo of toasts piled high with soft cheeses and butternut squash with red peppers or roasted eggplant caponata served with a crunchy shaved brussel sprout salad.
Relative newcomer to Red Bank’s restaurant scene, Runa offered their modern twist on Peruivan cuisine with colorful cups of fruity puree and avocado and shrimp ceviche prepared at their table.
Atlantic Bar & Grill from South Seaside Park also showcased a ceviche that displayed not only chef and owner Mike Jurusz’s deft hand with seafood but an appreciation for Peruvian ingredients such as aji amarillo peppers which was in the marinade. Committed to using seafood products coming in from nearby Barnegat Light he can claim his menu as the best catch of the day.
George Lyristis proclaimed his Asian-Greek fusion offering of a pork belly bao bun gyro to be “Momofuku-opolis.” The chic black gloves he wore was another tip-off of his flair for fun fused with drama in his menus at Teak and The Bistro at Red Bank.
More porky pleasures came from D’jeet? with vibrant lettuce cups filled with sesame glazed pork belly and spicy horseradish sprouts and a pork tenderloin with sauerkraut from Fresh.
Joe and James, the father and son duo from Tuzzio’s in Long Branch, dished up a delicate artichoke heart francaise at their station.
Hudson Cafe’s Ryan Strubbe served a Mexican-inspired chile made with braised brisket. He told me it is a favorite lunch special at his Atlantic Highlands eatery.
The Raven and the Peach set out onyx spoons with morsels of charred baby octopus and split pea salad. For dessert a crème caramel with fresh berries looked stunning on black plates.
Mumford’s Culinary Center served a New England style shrimp roll featuring organic, sustainably farmed Laughing Bird shrimp from Costa Rica. Patrons patiently waited for buns to be toasted and stuffed with the filling.
Ama Ristorante celebrated the end of winter vegetables and the bright beginning of spring with platters piled high with sweet and tangy onions agro dulce, brussel sprouts, asparagus and broccoli rabe.
Danny’s Steakhouse lured me to their station to watch big tender chunks of beef being sliced thin to create a clever take on surf and turf by Executive chef Chino Ablan. The “bushi” sushi roll was draped with succulent, grassfed meat beef and served with a crisp popcorn shrimp and sweet chili aioli.
More flavorful meaty bites came in the form of a chicken broccoli rabe meatball from The Spring Lake Manor.
If you found yourself mingling in the center of the room, servers made their way to you with steamers full of dumplings, buckets of oysters on the half shell and other finger-friendly finds.
The JOCEF event is not only a celebration of Joe Romanowski’s life and legacy, its purpose is to create new opportunities for future chefs. Holding court at the center of the room, the culinary students from Brookdale Community College proudly explained their dishes and posed together for photos with their instructors. The display of chocolate truffles and fruit gelees made by Kim Arthur and Amanda Chapman was in constant need of refilling.
I spoke with Andraw Ross a dual JOCEF scholarship winner about what the program means to her. The Neptune resident has already completed the culinary program and is currently enrolled in the pastry program. As she stood next to a stunning two tiered cake it took her three days to decorate with red and black fondant feathers and flowers she spoke of her aspirations to one day own her own restaurant. Wouldn’t that give Joe a thrill?
Rachel Weston is a food writer, culinary educator and author of “New Jersey Fresh: Four Seasons from Farm to Table.”