Frog and the Peach, Bayshore Bistro, Common Lot, Win Top Statewide Honors

The New Brunswick, Keyport and Millburn restaurants were among winners in 13 categories in the first Garden State Culinary Arts Awards

The first Garden State Culinary Arts Awards culminated in a ceremony in Eatontown on Sunday evening, May 7, that awarded prizes in 13 categories.

The Frog and the Peach, the landmark restaurant in New Brunswick owned by its chef, Bruce Lefebvre, won the GSCAA’s inaugural award for Best Restaurant.

The Best Chef award went to Andrew “Drew” Araneo, chef/owner of Drew’s Bayshore Bistro in Keyport.

Common Lot in Millburn, owned by husband-and-wife team Ehren and Nadine Ryan, was named Best New Restaurant.

The initial list of candidates was drawn up by the seven-member GSCAA executive committee and a statewide body of judges—each largely comprised of food journalists. After reducing the names in each category to 10 nominees, the committee and judges voted to determine the finalists. These were the top three vote-getters in each category. The results were tabulated by the independent accounting firm Sobel & Co., LLC, in Livingston.

Winners were determined after a second round of tabulated voting.

Amy Niles, president and CEO of WBGO Jazz Radio 88.3 FM, a public radio station based in Newark, hosted the awards ceremony. In addition to awards for chefs and restaurants, the Garden State Culinary Arts Awards honor a wide range of food professionals, including farmers, food artisans, proprietors of specialty food markets, and members of the wine, beer and spirits industries.

The Best Farmer award went to Rebecca, Peter and John Melick, owners with their parents, George and Norma Melick, of Melick’s Town Farm in Oldwick, Tewksbury Township.

The Outstanding Food Market award went to Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck.

The Outstanding Food Artisan category was won by Gabrielle Carbone and Matthew Ericco for their ice cream mecca, the Bent Spoon in Princeton.

In two categories, the voting ended in a tie:

The Rising Star Chef award was shared by Christopher Atamian, chef/owner of Porcini in Highlands, and AJ Cappella, chef de cuisine of the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station.

Outstanding Spirits Professional went to both Brant Braue of Jersey Artisan Distilling in Fairfield, and Russell Lewis and Michael Johannsen of Watermark in Asbury Park.

Nicholas Harary, owner of Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, won Outstanding Wine Professional.

Gene Muller of Flying Fish Brewing Co. in Somerdale was named Outstanding Beer Professional.

Outstanding Pastry Chef/Baker went to Debbie Mumford of Mumford’s Culinary Center in Tinton Falls. 

Broad Street Diner in Keyport was named Best Casual Restaurant.

And the winner of the first Garden State Culinary Legend award was the Knife & Fork Inn in Atlantic City.

The awards ceremony and reception, which was prepared and served by students from Passaic Technical Institute in Wayne, was held at HerSpace Breast-Imaging and Women’s Wellness Center in Eatontown. The art-filled, spa-like medical facility was donated as the event venue for the awards by its CEO, Larry Rubin, who was given an honorary award as Outstanding Patron of the Culinary Arts in New Jersey.

The independent, juried awards program was organized and administered by a seven-member committee. Its members are: Anthony Ewing, founder EthnicNJ.com; John Howard Fusco, food writer and founder of Eating in South Jersey; Peter Genovese, food/features writer, NJ Advance Media and nj.com and committee chair; Marie Jackson, James Beard-recognized pastry chef; Shannon Mullen, staff writer, Asbury Park Press; Tammy Paolino, regional features content strategist, The Courier Post/USA Today Network; and Elisa Ung, writer/ editor and former restaurant reviewer/dining columnist, The Record and northjersey.com.

The Garden State Culinary Arts Awards were founded by Andrea Clurfeld, longtime food critic based in New Jersey and, since January of this year, New Jersey Monthly’s Table Hopping editor. Neither Clurfeld nor New Jersey Monthly participated in the voting.

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