How 5 Local Chefs Sought Sanity This Year

Amid shutdowns and Covid-19 protocols, restaurateurs recharged their batteries through creative activities and challenging workouts.

chefs covid-19

Illustration by Katy Dockrill

HOME COOKING

Ariane Duarte

Ariane Kitchen & Bar | Verona

I sing alto in the choir of our church, Our Lady of the Lake in Verona, where I went to grammar school. Back in February, there was an item in the bulletin looking for a cook to make meals for the four priests who live in the rectory. I volunteered to drop off meals Monday through Friday. When Covid hit and my restaurant shut down, it gave me the kick in the butt to continue cooking, because I would happily sit home and eat Rice-a-Roni if I had to. 

My husband, Michael, and I were home with our older daughter, Rory, who’s 25 and a teacher in Essex Fells. She and I decided to do live cooking videos together on Facebook. Rory hand held the phone. Sometimes we propped it on top of the fridge so she’d be with me onscreen. We made cheddar-bacon biscuits, banana bread, nachos with ground beef, using things people have at home. 

Whatever happened, we’d roll with the punches. We didn’t want it to be perfect, because the world isn’t perfect right now.

chefs covid-19

Illustration by Katy Dockrill

GARDENING

Dan Richer

Razza Pizza Artigianale | Jersey City

I have a garden every year, but as a husband, a parent of two young kids, and a business owner, my garden doesn’t typically look as good as it did this spring and early summer, when Razza was closed. We moved into our house [in Middletown] about six years ago, and every year I do a bit more and the garden gets a little better. I’m not trying to be a farmer. For me, it’s a calm space where I can get my hands dirty and be a little more in touch with what I do professionally.

And gardening is nurturing. I like taking care of people and things. I like watching them grow, literally and figuratively. This spring, we got tons of snap peas, Swiss chard, lettuces and herbs. Herbs grow so easily; anyone can grow herbs, even me, and the animals tend to stay away from them. I use so many. We planted an apple and a pear tree about five years ago. We’re not getting apples yet, which probably has to do with me, not the tree. We have a deer fence, but something keeps eating my pears.

We’ve had blueberry bushes in the ground for years, and we get berries every year, but something comes in and eats them all. This year, I devoted a lot of time and energy to proper netting, and we got thousands of blueberries over a few weeks. My son was eating way too many for his belly to handle. I made a simple unyeasted blueberry cake that’s based on a French apple cake. The mother lode we ended up freezing, but in August, our power went out for a week in a hurricane, and we lost them. The plan was to make smoothies, because the kids are very into smoothies, and it’s a great way to get fruits and vegetables into their diets.

chefs covid-19

Illustration by Katy Dockrill

BICYCLING

Anthony Mangieri

Una Pizza Napoletana | Atlantic Highlands

I’ve been a mountain biker for most of my life, and it’s been my saving grace. If your cardio isn’t strong, you don’t deal with life stresses well. In 2010, I moved to Marin County, California, the birthplace of mountain biking, strictly for the riding. When I moved back to New York in 2018 to open Una Pizza Napoletana, the biking faded away. I still live in New York, but when I opened in Atlantic Highlands in February, Bobby Rallo, who owns Birravino [in Red Bank], helped me get back on the bike. We used to ride together before I moved to California.

I ride in Hartshorne and Huber Woods  [Monmouth County parks], and it’s a full-body workout. I have a daughter, Apollonia, who’s nine. One of her dreams this summer was to learn skateboarding and mountain biking. There’s a skateboard park in town, and she and her friends have been like a skateboard crew. She and I have been mountain biking together every Sunday morning. It’s slightly terrifying, because she doesn’t realize the impact of crashing, but she’s excelling at it.

Thierry Carrier

Avenue | Long Branch

I live right in Pier Village, where the restaurant is located, so I can walk to work in a couple minutes. To make sure I get my exercise, I wake up early several mornings a week and ride 20 to 30 miles on my road bike. Often, I’ll ride all the way up to Sandy Hook. I also have a mountain bike. On my days off, at least until winter comes, I’ll put it on the back of my car and drive up to Mountain Creek. You take the bike on the lift and then ride down. It’s pretty intense the speed, the jumps, the adrenaline. I’ve crashed a bunch of times, but I’ve never been seriously injured. I’m not 20 years old anymore, I’m 49, so I have to be careful. That said, I’m buying a motorcycle, a Triumph Bonneville, but I won’t ride it until spring.

[RELATED: What Chefs Cooked at Home During the Lockdown]

FITNESS

Leia Gaccione

South+Pine | Morristown
Central+Main | Madison

Two things have gotten me through this year. One is my staff. They’re so smart and hardworking, and a joy to collaborate with. They give me strength. The other is practicing gratitude on a daily basis. If you can be grateful for what you have, then more good comes.

Actually, there’s a third thing. I always tell people I’m not a “worker outer.” But this year, I got a Peloton bike. I do 30 minutes in the morning. I take a virtual class. If you’re doing well, the instructor might give you a shout out. Chefs can relate to that, since we’re all adrenaline junkies and super competitive. We’ve had this stigma for years as partiers, staying out late and drinking too much. But I see something else, especially this year—chefs taking care of their mental and physical state so they can handle the stresses of the day. Yoga, which I’ve been practicing for the last two years, is incredibly helpful with that. I also walk my dog for an hour in the morning. Being outdoors in nature settles me.

I started this fitness health journey in December. When Covid hit, it took a back seat. I was never a big drinker, but a couple of drinks would take the edge off. Finally, I snapped out of it and began eating better and drinking less. I’m now down 24 pounds. I plan to lose 16 more. In December I turn 37, which I’m looking at as the eighth anniversary of my 29th birthday. I sticking with that until I can’t pass for 29 anymore.

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