The Alternative Chef's Table: "Sussex County….New Jersey's Next Culinary Melting Pot “
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 • 10:33pm
Hello my fellow food fanatics!
Over the next several weeks and months, my plan is to take you on the culinary ride of your life right here in Sussex County.
I come to you via TAP to bring you a fresh, unique culinary take on what this great area has to offer via the knife and fork. I will be out there looking for the best eateries, from the local pizza joints all the way up to the four and five star fine dining establishments - and - everything in between.
Since becoming a resident of Newton last year, I realize now that Sussex County has slowly but surely become a long-awaited melting pot of diverse restaurant options. It’s not just another pretty taste…….
Pack up your taste buds and follow me as I bring you on a virtual culinary adventure throughout the area. I will bring you an honest, unbridled and in-depth look at the vast array of Restaurants, Bakeries, Deli’s as well as other diverse food options in Sussex and surrounding counties.
But hold on a sec.... before I get to that, allow me to introduce myself properly and tell you a little bit about me.
Who would have thought an Italian-American kid from Queens, New York, a kid who was chained to the stove most of his life, would be writing a food column for a great new online news and information forum like The Alternative Press?
My early childhood memories of mom and grandma cooking Italian feasts in the kitchen ignited my burning passion for food. Waking up Sunday mornings, I was drawn to the incredible aroma of sautéed fresh garlic and grated Pecorino Romano cheese as Grandma Marie fried up her deliciously decadent meatballs while slow simmering her signature red sauce for our traditional Sunday Italian dinner. It was one of the many perks of growing up New York Italian.
The house echoed as I raced downstairs to the kitchen to be sure to devour a couple of those hot and juicy meatballs right out of the cast iron frying pan. I made it just in time, every time, to get my share before they made their way into the sauce for their day-long simmer. WOW!!!! My mouth is watering just thinking about them!!!!
I have to give credit where credit is due. By allowing me to help them in the kitchen, my mom (Elizabeth) and Grandma Marie created a cooking machine! I knew, from an early age, that this passion I felt for the food and the love that went into every fresh ingredient used in my family’s kitchen was something that would consume me for the rest of my life.
My culinary adventure began at a young age when the Italian deli down the block took me under its wing. Most of my friends couldn't wait to get to the schoolyard for their afternoon game of stickball. Not me!!! I couldn't wait to get to the deli and learn something new! I swear, I couldn't get enough of the smells, the tastes or the interaction with the people from the neighborhood! It was addictive!!!
By the time I turned sixteen, Sal and Gino (the guys who owned the deli) offered me an opportunity to be THE Chef’s helper in the kitchen. I couldn't believe it! Of course, I had to get my mother's approval - and I did! You would have thought I won the lottery - and you know, in a way I did. I was going to learn from two of the best Italian chefs in New York.
Over the next three years, working as many hours as I could, I was like a sponge soaking up the knowledge learning to create the freshest and most rustic Italian fare you would ever want to sink your teeth into. Honestly, working at the neighborhood deli did more for my career than any accredited school ever could have. This truly was the foundation for developing and enhancing my cooking techniques as well as molding and shaping my respect for the food and the art of creating unforgettable dishes.
At the age of 19, I took my knife skills up to Hyde Park, NY and enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America. I learned so much at the C.I.A. and used my newly acquired skills to become the Executive Chef for Menu Masters Catering, Inc. Soon thereafter, I became the co-owner of the catering business and created many a delicacy for many to enjoy! I was then offered the position of Executive Chef/Chef Consultant for The Darden Group which owns franchise operations such as Red Lobster, Macaroni Grill and Bahama Breeze...just to name a few. Another amazing culinary learning experience!
In 2007, I heard about Hard Rock Park, a great new concept for a theme park to be located in Myrtle Beach, SC. I was offered a position with the Food and Beverage Management team of this award winning Rock-n-Roll Theme Park. What a package deal!! Not only would I get paid to do the work I love to do - - but - - I would be privy to some of the best live music concerts ever!! I had a great time managing the dozens of award-winning restaurants and free-standing walk-up food venues. I was involved with the development and design of the menus, and the hiring/training of 600+ Food and Beverage employees. During this incredible run, I had the unique and unforgettable opportunity to cook for some of the biggest acts in Rock-n-Roll (just to name a few: The Eagles, The Moody Blues, Kid Rock, The Charlie Daniels Band and many more).
My many ventures and experiences have brought me here to you - where I am happy to be. I hope you find my columns informative, entertaining and helpful! Mangia, my friends!!!! See you again soon!!!!
Jeff Morace, Executive Chef / Restaurant Consultant - 52 years old, has been a resident of Newton for over a year and is originally from Queens, NY.
The earliest memories of what lit my burning passion for food is as a young boy, waking up Sunday mornings to the incredible aroma of sautéed fresh Garlic and grated Pecorino Romano Cheese as my grandmother fried up her deliciously decadent meatballs while the 'sauce' slow-simmered for our traditional Sunday Italian dinner. It was one of the many perks of growing up New York Italian.
If running down the stairs at top speed to make sure I got a few freshly fried meatballs before they made their way to the sauce pot was an Olympic event, trust me, I would have won the gold every weekend! Would you believe me if I told you I can taste them as we speak? (I knew you would!)
After graduating from John Bowne H.S. in Queens, NY , I attended St. John’s University (also in Queens) and spent one year at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
I’ve been in the Food and Beverage Industry for over 30 years. I trained and worked alongside some of the best chefs on the East Coast. One of my proudest credits was being a part of the Culinary team that designed the kitchens and menus , and hired and trained a staff of 600 + Food and Beverage Employees for Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, SC - the world’s first and only Rock-n-Roll Theme Park.
Oh! I can't believe I almost forgot this - - I am also the proud graduate of one of the most important and influential learning establishments - the one where I developed the true art of cooking with passion - G K U…..Grandma’s Kitchen University!
Before I sign off, here is a little something to remember me by: "I will always live to cook….and never cook to live."
Be well my friends!
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.