Catching Up with Chef Christine Nunn

Recently named head chef at Esty Street in Park Ridge, Nunn reflects on her career and recounts her Covid-19 experience (she lost her senses of taste and smell!).

christine nunn

Chef Christine Nunn’s Sea Scallops with spring pea barley risotto, huckleberry reduction and pea tendril salad, at Esty Street in Park Ridge.

Although she eventually became known for her signature lobster rolls, chef Christine Nunn did not start out her career in the kitchen. After 9/11, she thought, “You only live once, dropped her job as a journalist and headed to the Culinary Institute of America to pursue her long-standing passion for cooking. Years later, she became a standout in Bergen County, opening Picnic in Fair Lawn and Picnic on the Square in Ridgewood, two acclaimed restaurants that have since closed. She continues to run her catering business.

When the pandemic hit last year, Nunn had to set aside plans to open a new restaurant at Oak Ridge’s Fairy Tale Forest, to be called Fables. Going back to her roots, she instead did a pop-up lobster shack, and focused on small catering gigs to get through the year. When, after contracting Covid-19 last November, she lost her senses of taste and smell, Nunn turned to a local deli, Luca’s, in Fair Lawn, to continue her love for making food.

“I wasn’t working in a kitchen,” Nunn says. “I had to do something, even though I had no taste or smell, and I had the best time making sandwiches.” Through January and February, Nunn learned the ropes at Luca’s, making close to a hundred sandwiches a day and discovering that sandwich making is “truly an art form.”

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At Luca’s, Nunn worked alongside Peg Preis, 70, who’d been making sandwiches since she was in high school. Nunn says her time with the close-knit staff at Luca’s not only improved her sandwich-crafting skills, but also humbled her outlook. “As an executive chef,” she explains, “the buck always stops with you. I wish restaurants worked [with] as much of a team [spirit] as they did at this little store.”

Nunn’s senses of smell and taste bounced back after she received her two vaccine doses. In March, she returned to her role as chef. At Esty Street in Park Ridge, she has introduced touches of whimsy to the fine-dining menu: Deviled Eggs topped with caviar, Foie Gras with a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and strawberry rhubarb gastrique, and her signature lobster rolls.

Reflecting on her career, Nunn sums up her years in kitchens quite simply: “I just love to cook.”

Esty Street (86 Spring Valley Road, Park Ridge) is open for dinner Tuesday–Saturday. Reservations can be made online from 4–9 pm.

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