Ultimate Chef New Jersey to Crown State’s Best Chef

Chefs from across the state will square off on Saturday, January 9.

Chef Central of Paramus has announced the lineup of chef competitors for the first-ever Ultimate Chef New Jersey (UCNJ) competition, formerly called Ultimate Chef Bergen County (UCBC).

On Saturday, January 9th, representing Union County, chef Don Macmath of Twin Brooks Country Club in Watchung will square off against the Bergen County representative, chef Todd Villani, of Terre a Terre Restaurant in Carlstadt. On Saturday, January 16, representing Passaic County, chef Josh Bernstein, of Spuntino Wine Bar and Italian Tapas in Clifton, will square off against the representative from Essex County, chef Justin Manzi of The Pig and Prince Restaurant in Montclair. The two winners of these rounds will then face each other in the semi-finals on Saturday, January 23. On Saturday, January 30, the winner of that round will then face the reigning UCBC Champion chef Carlos Valdez of The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Hackensack for the title of Ultimate Chef New Jersey 2016 Champion.

All events start at 11 AM and admission is free to the public. There is very limited seating. Chefs will be given a mystery ingredient that must be a major part of each of the four courses they submit for judging. Audience members will receive tasting samples of two of each chef’s four dishes. Judges will score each dish on taste, presentation, cooking skills, innovation and degree of difficulty. The chef who has a winning score on a majority of scorecards will win. The competition is sponsored by Whole Foods Market. Please join us in wishing all of our chefs good luck in the tournament. Information:  201-576-0178

Psst….I will be a judge for the first three rounds. Be sure to say hello.


Here are some restaurants where you can celebrate the holidays.

Ama Ristorante, Driftwood Cabana Club, 1485 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright, will celebrate Christmas Eve from 5 to 10 PM with their winter menu along with holiday specials. Reservations: 732-530-9760.

The Bernards Inn, 27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville, will be open Christmas Eve from 4 to 8 PM. A three-course, prix-fixe dinner will be offered in the dining room and a buffet in the Fenwick Ballroom Reservations: 908-766-0002.

Throughout the month of December, the Bonney Read, 525 Cookman Avenue, Asbury park will offer an a la carte Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner. Reservations: 732-455-3352.

The Brothers Moon, 7 W Broad Street, Hopewell, will be offering an a la carte Christmas Eve menu; BYO. Reservations: 609-333-1330.

Crystal Springs, Hamburg will  have the following options for dinner at the Grand Cascades Lodge; 1 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg.

Restaurant Latour will serve a five-course menu ($125, $190 with wine pairing) highlighting flavors of the season and luxury ingredients to indulge in: truffles, foie gras, chestnuts, lamb and more. The regular five-course menu will also be available. Restaurant Latour will be open 3 to 9 PM on Christmas Eve and 3 to 7 PM on Christmas Day.

Crystal Tavern brings a New American approach to Christmas with a three-course menu ($65, $94 with wine pairing) featuring Shrimp and Grits with red eye gravy, Rib Roast with Yorkshire pudding and spinach, and a Yule Log with chestnut cream. Crystal Tavern will be serve this special menu from 5 to 10 PM Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The a la carte menu will also be available from 11 AM to 10 PM each day.

Springs Bistro will serve a four-course menu inspired by the Feast of the Seven Fishes ($69, $98 with wine pairing from 3 to 8 PM on Christmas Eve and closed Christmas Day. The regular a la carte menu will also be available.

At Minerals Resort & Spa (Route 94, Vernon, NJ), Kites will be serving a four-course menu on Christmas Eve from 5 to  9 PM ($65, $88 with wine pairings).

Reservations for all the restaurants can be made by calling 844-207-3203. For more information and online menus, click this.

On Christmas Eve, Fascino, 331 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, will offer their new seasonal a la carte menu along with winter specials. Reservations:  973-233-0350.

A Christmas Eve Buffet will be served from 4 to 8 PM at The Grain House at the Olde Mill Inn, 225 Rt 202, Basking Ridge. Reservations 908-221-1150.

Christmas Eve dinner will be held at the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn, One East Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, with a limited a la carte menu and specials; 3 to 8 PM. Reservations: 201-445-4115.

On December 24, Nonno’s Ristorante, 401 Main Street, Bradley Beach (732-455-3778), will offer a family-style Feast of the Seven Fishes from 4 to 6:30 PM featuring fried calamari; sautéed conch with butter and garlic; shrimp scampi; mussels fra diavolo; octopus with lemon caper sauce clams oreganata and baccala alla pizzaiola. BYO.

From December 21 through December 24, Francesco Palmieri chef/owner of the Orange Squirrel, 412 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, will offer a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner; $65 plus tax and gratuity. Reservations: 973-337-6421.

The Peacock Inn, 20 Bayard Lane, Princeton will offer a three-course dinner form 5 to 9:30 PM; $95; children’s menu $36. Reservations: 609-924-1707.

Celebrate Christmas Day at the Ram’s Head Inn, 9 West White Horse Pike, Galloway with a four-course, prix-fixe dinner. Reservations: 609-652-1700.

Salt Creek Grille, 4 Bingham Avenue, Rumson, will celebrate Christmas Eve with a special holiday inspired menu from 4 to 9 PM. A children’s menu will also be available. Reservations:  732-933-9272.



Impress your family and friends by serving a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner that is celebrated on Christmas Eve in many parts of Italy. Heirloom Kitchen, 3853 Rt 516, Old Bridge will offer a hands-on class where attendees will learn how to make Mario Batali’s Feast of the Seven Fishes with dishes such as Clams with Oregano and Bread Crumbs (Vongole Origanate), Marinated Fresh Anchovies (Alici Marinati), Spaghetti with Mussels (Spaghetti con le Cozze), Salt Cod with Tomatoes and Capers (Baccalà alla Vesuviana), Broccoli Sautéed in Wine and Garlic, Chocolate Chip–Orange Cannoli (Cannoli di Ricotta), and Christmas Honey Fritters (Struffoli). 7 PM; $95. Reservations: 732-727-9444.

The Palace at Somerset Park, 333 Davidson Avenue, Somerset, is hosting a Holiday Celebration that includes a buffet, DJ, photography, and holiday decorations. 6 to 10 PM; $60 inclusive of service charge & tax and 2 free drink tickets. Information or reservations: 877-PALACE4.

Please send press releases and restaurant news, including information on staff changes, wine tastings, and cooking classes to [email protected].

Read more Eat & Drink, Food Events, Table Hopping articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown