New Chefs at Restaurant Nicholas and Eno Terra

After nine years as chef de cuisine of Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, a perennial on NJM’s Top 25, Nicholas Wilkins has left the restaurant.

“Nothing bad happened,” said Nicholas Harary, the restaurant’s executive chef (and co-owner, with his wife, Melissa), reached today by phone. “He needed to spend more time with his family. I have an immense amount of respect and affection for him.”

Wilkins, who is in his early 30s, has already been replaced by Michael Metzner, 30, who last summer succeeded Chris Albrecht as executive chef of Eno Terra in Kingston, just north of Princeton.

Eno Terra is one of the restaurants owned by brothers Carlo and Raoul Momo. Metzner, who has been at Nicholas about a month now, has been replaced as executive chef of Eno Terra by Terry Strong, who joined the Terra Momo Restaurant Group in 2000. Strong had been executive chef of the Momo brothers’ Princeton flagship, Mediterra, since 2011.

The moves of Metzner and Wilkins may seem sudden, but they were in the works for awhile. Six months before the contracts of any his top employees expire, Harary sits down with them for a conversation about the future. Of the conversation he had with Wilkins last fall, Harary said, “I thought his reasoning was very valid.”

Wilkins, in a separate phone call, explained his reasoning. Although he left Restaurant Nicholas about a month ago, he spoke about it as if he was still there, which turns out to be true emotionally if not otherwise.

“I’ve been here almost ten years,” he said, “and my daughter hasn’t been in the best of health recently, and I want to spend a little more time with my family. The best way to do that is to step away from that role.”

The role of chef de cuisine at Restaurant Nicholas is a particularly demanding one, we said.

“Yes,” Wilkins replied. “Very much so.”

Coincidentally, both Metzner and Wilkins came to work for Restaurant Nicholas for the first time in 2006. They became good friends, and remain so to this day.

“We spent many a great year at Restaurant Nicholas, and we’re still on great terms,” Wilkins said. “I wish Michael nothing but the best, and I have nothing but good things to say about the restaurant, about Nicholas himself and about all the employees. I’m sure Michael will be very successful and Restaurant Nicholas will continue to be the best that it is.”

When Wilkins, a British native, joined Restaurant Nicholas in 2006, “he had just come over from England,” Harary said, “and Mike had just graduated from Johnson & Wales,” the culinary school.

“Mike has been a line cook for me and a sous chef,” Harary said. “I always told him, as he moved on, that I wanted someday to bring him back in a top position. Mike liked the Momos and gave them plenty of notice. He wasn’t under contract with them. Mike always told me that cooking at Restaurant Nicholas was like playing for the New York Yankees and that he always wanted to return in the top position. Now that has happened.”


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