Ninety Acres Culinary Center at Natirar: A Most Worthy Experience
Monday, June 4, 2012 • 6:13am
Native to England, but raised in New Jersey, David Felton is executive chef of the Ninety Acres Culinary Center, located on the Natirar Estate in Somerset County. Probably one of New Jersey’s most talked-about, ”Table-at-the-Farm” restaurants, Chef Felton truly believes that he has reached his calling. Achieving his position in 2009, he won the title of ‘The People’s Best New Chef in the New York Area,’ by an online reader poll sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine.
“I am living my dream,” said Chef Felton, as we toured the cultivated areas surrounding the restaurant, “I have the honor of preparing meals from crops growing right outside our windows. Our restaurant was built in the center of a huge farm.”
After graduating from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, Chef Felton set out on a culinary mission. It was a stop in Kansas City, Missouri that helped launch his dream. Working under Chefs Michael Smith and Debbie Gold at the American Restaurant, the duo hired him as Chef de Cuisine, and invited him to help them launch the dining spot, ‘40 Sardines’. While there, he was honored as one of America’s Top Ten Sous Chefs in a nationwide competition sponsored by Bertolli Olive Oil.
Afterwards, it was a teaching position at the Natural Gourmet Institute of Health and Culinary Arts that fostered his zest for sourcing local foods. Becoming aware that 90 Acres would become the home for "Table-at-the-Farm” dining, the outstanding chef recognized his life’s dream, and pursued his finest opportunity..."to serve his guests the best-of-the best.”
Folks need to know that the 500 acre Somerset County estate is owned by visionary Bob Wojtowicz, who also came up with the idea for the best use of of the property while working with British billionaire Richard Branson.
“We harvest and buy 80 percent of our produce from our own and other local farms in season," adds Chef Felton. “In the warmer weather months, our farm provides 80 percent of the ingredients featured on our menu.”
“Executive Sous Chef Martin Kester is my right hand man,” he adds. “He works with the farm to make sure we always have what we want and need. He then decides the best way to use it on our food and drink menus. Charles Bauer is our sous chef. He is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day production of the kitchen.”
Home to ten or more core cooks, Natirar is accustomed to serving at least 1,500 meals per week.
With 14 acres of farmland, that serves as home to livestock and produce, growing steps away from his Ninety Acres kitchen, Chef David knows he is always able to tap into the resources of other farms in the area. "Food is all about sharing," he says. "It is all about a social experience. Whatever I do, I do well, because I know my team is always with me."
And, we the folks who visit Natirar, know that he is absolutely spot-on!
Take a trip to the Ninety Acres Culinary Center at Natirar in Gladstone. Enjoy the magnificent countryside. If dining is not on your particular schedule that day or evening, stop and enjoy a drink at their bar. Truly it is a most worthy experience!
What: Ninety Acres Culinary Center at Natirar
Where: 2 Main Street., P.O. Box 332 Gladstone, NJ., 07977
Hours: Closed Monday. 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday. 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday. 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Ninety Acres Culinary Center offers a Full-Service Cooking School. For more information: Email: TheCookingSchool@natirar.com
FYI: Smart Casual Dress. Parking on the premises. Five week lead for weekend reservations.
Dinner for Two: $150.00 (plus tax and tip)---$75 with selections from the Bar Menu (plus tax and tip).
Thank-you for taking the time to read about the fabulous 90 Acres and Natirar. If you’ve time, take a ride and enjoy the beauty of the setting.
Please don’t forget to send me all of your restaurant news and happenings. I’ll be happy to visit your favorite selections. If you are a restaurant owner, or even a server, and want us to share your dining news, please send me all of your information.
Millicent K. Brody is an award-winning writer and photographer and a resident of Westfield, New Jersey. Contact her at Mkbrody@aol.com
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