Getting a chef to talk about his experience and career is not an easy task, however, every now and then you get lucky. I ran into Zeet Peabody while he was teaching a cooking class at The Flaky Tart in the Atlantic Highlands a few weeks ago.
Why do I call him a Renaissance Chef? Because his vast experience and expertise spans so many different areas of the food industry. Chef, restaurant owner, front man, gardener, artist, the list goes on and on.
Peabody was private chef to the Bon Jovi family for about six years. With skills honed in restaurants, yachts, and other estates, it should come as no surprise that he found himself the personal chef to a famous family. How this happened is somewhat serendipitous.
While on vacation in Florida, his mother suggested he answer a newspaper ad from someone in New Jersey looking for a private chef. He wasn’t really interested, but sometimes Mom knows best and she sent in his resume. On his return to New Jersey he had a phone call requesting he come in for an interview. Reluctantly, he went to the interview where he met and started working for the Bon Jovi family.
It was during this period of his career that his restaurant skills were tapped to help start the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, NJ. Working with Dorothea Bon Jovi, he helped to find the property, work with the builders and formulate the plan for the restaurant. He was also instrumental in starting the herb and vegetable gardens in front of the restaurant. It was his experience in teaching others how to work in the kitchen though, that has had one of the biggest impacts on his life and career.
After spending ten years involved with the Bon Jovis, Peabody has moved on to a new juxtaposition in his career. He is considering the idea of teaching. With his culinary background, this should be a very fertile endeavor. But let’s back up to the beginning and see just where his diverse and unique education began.
Starting out in New Orleans, a place very close to his heart and soul, he was inspired by friends from several different restaurants. It was in the Caribbean, specifically in Guadaloupe and Martinique, where he learned Creole cooking. Going back and forth between New York City and the Caribbean, and bringing some of the native female cooks with him, he mastered the cuisine. Working with a restaurant group, he helped to open Sugar Reef, Tortilla Flats, Gulf Coast and Cowgirl Hall of
Peabody moved on to open his own restaurant in the Atlantic Highlands, Bistro Zeeto in 1995. The Atlantic Highlands not being the dining area it is now, the restaurant although very popular, was closed in 2001. Frustration over enlarging the building and procuring a liquor license helped to end Bistro Zeeto.
Moving on to his next culinary phase, Peabody became a chef on a yacht in the Atlantic Highlands marina. In addition he was a private chef to a family that lived in Rumson, NJ and Aspen, Co, traveling back and forth when needed. It was here that he learned how to deal with restrictive diets. Heart healthy meals for one, vegetarian for another, and in the end, he produced 4 separate meals a day for each member of the family. He stayed with this family until they moved to Aspen permanently in 2001.
Serving as private chef to families in New York City and The Hampton’s, Chef Zeet is currently considering several options for his next move. Asked about a few of his more personal proclivities, it turns out that he is rather humble in his desires. His favorite meal being rice and beans, and his desire to create surrealist works of art for instance. What ever he decides, he is hoping that it will be “emotionally rewarding”.