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Are Top Chefs Really Fleeing New York for Jersey City?

Are Top Chefs Really Fleeing New York for Jersey City?

Restaurants owned by reputable chefs are popping up across the river from the culinary center of the world

Are Top Chefs Really Fleeing New York for Jersey City?

Move over, New York. But will they succeed? It’s tough to tell, but several chef alums from well-known restaurants in New York like Eleven Madison Park, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Allen & Delancey, and Pork Slope, have made the move to Jersey City to open their own restaurants across the river.

In the past 18 months, 10 new restaurants have opened in the New Jersey city on the Hudson, including the rustic French Kitchen at Grove Station by chef David Viana (formerly at Eleven Madison Park and Batello); small plates and ramen café Union Republic by chef Gregory Torrech (alum of Resto, Allen & Delancey); Thirty Acres by chef Kevin Pemoulie (formerly of Craftbar and Momofuku Noodle Bar), and the Asian-American restaurant Talde, run by chef Dale Talde (a Top Chef contestant who trained with Masaharu Morimoto and Jean Georges).

“This has been an extremely tough city to open in,” said chef Kevin Pemoulie, who decided to open his first restaurant in Jersey City. “Things would’ve been easier if we had opened in New York or Brooklyn. It’s a tough love city, but once you get through it and show you’re here to be a part of the community, it can be the kind of place where small businesses support one another. If everyone sticks together and supports one another, then this downtown area can prove to be a great culinary pocket.”

Most of the chefs explained that they desired to move to Jersey City because it was more likely that their talents would be heard, and their food experienced, rather than drowning in an ocean of hundreds of restaurants in New York. Or it could be the astronomical rents in New York that plague restaurant owners.

For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


A N.J. chef is dominating on 'Top Chef.' Here's what he says about Jersey eats

This is not how David Viana saw it all happening.

The Elizabeth native, who has been a front-running contestant on the current season of "Top Chef" and has consequently become one of the hottest chefs in New Jersey, worked in a probation office and planned to go to law school before pursuing a career in cooking. Now, he's a partner and executive chef at the critically acclaimed Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge, a James Beard Award nominee and has millions of foodie fans watching him compete on the hit Bravo cooking television show, now in its 16th season.

NJ Advance Media sat down with Viana this week to discuss the best (and worst) parts of being on "Top Chef," the best places to eat in New Jersey and why the state's food future is bright.

Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

When and where did your love of cooking begin?

David Viana: "I never really had a passion for cooking. My first girlfriend I ever dated, her dad owned a restaurant. I thought he liked me because he offered me a job. Two weeks later, after washing dishes, I realized he probably didn't like me too much. It was there that people were like 'Oh, try this, try that.' And I was like 'Oh wow, this is really good.' I never thought I liked any of this stuff. My parents weren't the best cooks, is basically what that came down to. My parents would buy (broccoli) in the frozen aisle and boil it, it would be like mush all the time. It was the 80s and 90s, it was all frozen vegetables and stuff. But they made a home cooked meal every night, it just wasn't very edible."

And when did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?

DV: "I guess it was at that job where I started to enjoy food. I worked in that restaurant and others throughout high school and college, never considering it a profession. I just thought that's what you do to make money in college, work in the restaurant industry. When I got out, I got a job at Union County probations in Elizabeth on East Jersey St., where I spent four to six months there before I realized I hated working at a desk. The whole time I spent daydreaming about my days in the restaurant. I knew the industry, I knew it was a lot of hours, I knew it was difficult. But it was just a better way to spend my day and enjoyed the unpredictability, the camaraderie, the action, how every day was similar but different, new experiences all the time. So I applied to culinary school in the city, I went to ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in Manhattan and from there I started working in New York City."

How did your work as a young chef prepare you to run Heirloom Kitchen and compete on "Top Chef?"

DV: "I think from the moment I picked up a knife I've been preparing for my opportunity to be the chef. Whether it was learning great habits at 11 Madison Park (in Manhattan), learning the highest levels of food and what food could become and how artistic and pristine it could be, to learning what to do if your toilet backs up. In every restaurant there's good, bad and ugly or indifferent. There's a lesson to be learned and paying attention and taking diligent notes and observing and learning and soaking it all in, from culture to how you want the culture of your restaurant to be, from who you want to partner with to what kind of food you want to offer, there are so many lessons to learn in this industry."

What was the biggest mistake you made as a young chef?

DV: "There's a lot! I think the biggest mistake I made, I went into partnership with someone who stole money from me and the restaurant never opened. The biggest mistake I made, and I think I made it a couple times, it was the mistake of pride. It was assuming that my talent -- I had been really good at what I had done since the moment I decided to do it. It was very humbling to fail a few times to realize that A. I can't control everything and my talent is not enough, and I need to surround myself with talented people. I'm interviewing these owners of these restaurants the same way they're interviewing me. I've got to make sure that the union that we have, the partnership that we make is a successful one, and that we're two like-minded people wanting the same things. That's a really important lesson they don't teach you in culinary school."

How did find Heirloom Kitchen? Or did they find you?

DV: "Dan Richer, of Razza (in Jersey City), he is friends with my partner (Neilly Robinson). He had mentioned to her, she owned this place before I got here, it was a boutique kitchenware shop and cooking school. She would do chef-inspired diners, invite chefs from all over New Jersey to do dinners here for about 20 or so people. Dan and her, he reached out to her saying that she should check me out, I was in Jersey City at the time at this place called The Kitchen At Grove Station. She came in for dinner, she loved it, she invited me to come and do a dinner here, then I did and loved the experience. Then when I left Jersey City, I moved to Asbury Park and opened Barrio Costero (a critically acclaimed coastal Mexican restaurant). She lived in Asbury and I would bump into her in town and we were really friendly. I was leaving Barrio and she had invited me to be a teacher here at least until I found something to do. (Robinson) mentioned the idea of turning this into a restaurant and cooking school. I think it was a conversation over a Negroni, a walk through the space, a handshake and that's it. I've been here now, two years in September, two years and change. I couldn't have imagined this kind of success and couldn't imagine a better person to partner with, honestly."

What do you think makes Heirloom Kitchen a cut above in New Jersey dining?

DV: "I will say that we are a dining experience. . This place, this kitchen is literally a stage. Everywhere in the dining room, you can look in and see exactly what's happening to your food. We are inviting, we are polished, not pretentious, we want you to feel like you're at your best friend's house but with way better food. We encourage dialogue. If you want to know about my son, we'll talk. If you want to know where I get my ingredients, we're going to talk. If I overhear that you're deciding between the scallops and the duck and you choose the duck, at some point during the meal I'm going to send you out one perfect scallop, the perfect bite. . We're not just selling food here, we're selling memories, really intimate moments. We're blowing away your expectations. A lot of people come in here thinking it's going to be great or having heard a lot of hype. I'm on TV for Christ's sake, the bar is getting higher and higher to impress, but we're up for the challenge."

What is the one dish you HAVE to eat when you come to Heirloom Kitchen?
DV:
"The closest thing we have to a signature dish is our duck breast. It's prepared seasonally, we pan-sear the duck breast low and slow, render out the skin so it gets nice and crunch. It's seasonal because everything we pair with it changes according to the seasons. But the duck breast itself is the only thing on our menu that never comes off."


Watch the video: Покажи мне Америку Чувак! New Jersey, Liberty State Park, Jersey City. (December 2021).