NJ Event Touts the Obvious: Garden State Restaurants Rule!

At a recent event, Garden State chefs cooked up a storm—and Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way made dessert!

Jersey chefs chefs Olaide Tella, Robbie Felice and Nur-E Gulshan Rahman
Taste of New Jersey honored chefs (from left) Olaide Tella, Robbie Felice and Nur-E Gulshan Rahman. Photo: Courtesy of NJ Division of Travel & Tourism

Our state’s powers that be have just spilled the beans on New Jersey’s delicious secret: For foodies, this side of the Hudson is the coast with the most.

At a recent media event at Platform JB, the James Beard space in Manhattan, Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way highlighted the state’s tourism initiative: “Little State, Lotta Wow.”

“As Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, I am so glad to see that more and more people realize what we in our state have long known: we have some of the best restaurants, most talented chefs, and most interesting wineries and breweries in the country,” she said.

Then she praised internationally renowned chefs who have invested in New Jersey, calling out Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Samuelsson, Nobu Matsuhisa and New Jersey native David Burke.

The note-taking, photo-snapping crowd was composed primarily of New York-based lifestyle journalists: food and travel editors, reporters, writers and social-media influencers.

Jeff Vasser, executive director of New Jersey Travel & Tourism, drew nods and chuckles by noting that “our state is known as America’s diner capital.” But, he promised, “what you may not know, yet certainly will after tonight, is that we are a multicultural state with a rising global dining and beverage scene…a state where so many talented chefs take root and grow.”

[RELATED: 30 Best Restaurants in New Jersey]

Lieutenant Governor Way praised New Jersey as “one of the most welcoming and diverse states in the country, where visitors can truly eat their way around the world.” She introduced a trio of talented New Jersey chefs: culinary innovator Robbie Felice of Viaggio, Osteria Crescendo, Pasta Ramen and the about-to-open Bar Mutz; Olaide Tella of Olaide’s Kitchen in Parlin, serving Nigerian food; and Nur-E Gulshan Rahman, the James Beard-nominated chef of Jersey City’s Korai Kitchen, serving Bangladeshi food.

The chefs thanked the audience and hustled back to their cooking stations to finish up signature dishes from their restaurants. Minutes later, the crowd dove into three delicious dishes, paired with smooth New Jersey wines and flavorful beers.

Felice’s exuberant nosh from Pasta Ramen’s menu, mochi ramen Kaluga caviar, embodied New Jersey’s inspired international style. He told New Jersey Monthly, “I brag to my New York friends about how insanely great our food scene is, with all the melting-pot cuisines and the fantastic ingredients from our farms and ocean. And then there’s our chefs’ passion, our warm hospitality and our local pride. We have everything it takes to be a major dining destination.”

When every last morsel of the chefs’ dishes had been devoured, the crowd began to murmur about dessert, unlisted on the evening’s menu. Was there one? Who was the Jersey pastry chef?

Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way, wearing an apron, holds a cake celebrating New Jersey

Baker-slash-NJ Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way with her tempting tribute to the Garden State. Photo: Courtesy of NJ Division of Travel & Tourism

First, two tempting desserts were rolled out: a pan-Latin tres leches cake and blueberry-lavender cheesecake macarons.

When the baker appeared in her JerseyFresh kitchen apron, the audience erupted in applause, cheers and raised cameras.

The proud pastry chef was none other than Lieutenant Governor Way. She clasped her hands in thanks and held up a hefty, Jersey berry-topped cake so its intricately decoration could be admired and photographed. Everyone wanted a picture of Way’s cake, bedecked with the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.

A cake decorated with strawberries, blueberries and the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.

Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way’s suitably decorated cake. Photo: Courtesy of Jacqueline Mroz

Even with her breathless schedule, our Lieutenant Governor carves time to indulge her Jersey passion for food. She told NJM, “Baking takes us to a place where we can create, relax and nurture. For me, it’s an instant mood-lifter. When I’m stressed, I pull out some ingredients and make a batch of pure enjoyment.”

We asked Way about her favorite things to bake. “My No. 1 is macarons,” she said, “flavored with whatever’s in season in New Jersey. Tonight, it’s South Jersey blueberries and lavender from our lavender farms. I make these for my staff, and we’re all happy.”

“They’re the best macarons ever,” enthused Way’s chief of staff Jay Boone, by her side. “Just so amazing.” The Lieutenant Governor beamed.

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