Corrections or additions?
This article by Euna Kwon Brossman was prepared for the May 25, 2005
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Progressive Food: Progressive Fundraising
‘Fundraising has become so competitive today," says Karen Laub, a
former nurse turned fundraising pro. "It’s harder to get people to
extend their time to put on a ballgown or tux and come to a long,
sit-down dinner. We needed something different, low-key, something
local and progressive – no black tie, easy to get to, where people
could feel like they could come straight from work. They have to eat,
anyway, right? Why not give them a premiere setting with premiere
chefs and a chance to socialize and do some networking with local
movers and shakers?"
Laub is co-chair of the first annual Chefs with Heart event in New
Jersey, to benefit the American Heart Association, Thursday, June 2,
at the Tournament Players Club at Jasna Polana. Her husband, Dr. Glenn
W. Laub, chairman, department of cardiothoracic surgery for the Heart
Hospital at St. Francis Medical Center and a member of the American
Heart Association board of directors, is also a co-chair.
While the Chefs with Heart concept has been very successful in New
York for years, this is the first time it’s being done in New Jersey.
This gourmet walk-around event features tasting stations manned by the
creme de la creme of New Jersey’s culinary elite, including the chefs
from Jasna Polana; the Bernards Inn and Le Petit Chateau, both in
Bernardsville; Restaurant Serenade in Chatham; Tre Piani Ristorante in
Princeton; the Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel in Cape May; and the
nationally renowned Ryland Inn in Whitehouse. In addition, guests will
enjoy fine wines, microbrews, a cafe bar, delicious pastries, and
chocolates; dance to a four-piece jazz band; and rub elbows with some
of Princeton’s elite movers and shakers.
"Everybody asks me what’s your favorite thing to cook. It’s like
asking a painter what’s your favorite color?" says Craig Shelton,
chef-owner of the Ryland Inn. It was the opportunity to blend his
mission of promoting healthy eating with the AHA’s mission of
supporting heart health awareness that led Shelton to sign on as the
event’s honorary chef chair. "It’s time to celebrate the unity of
purpose," says Shelton, who has opted to prepare a surprise dish for
the event. "It’s also nice to able to grin in the face of years of
scientific quackery that maligned high-end cuisine as bad for the
heart. What we’re finding is that the old country had it right, the
Mediterranean diet – based on reasonable portions, not too much
starch, and lots of protein and vegetables – is very healthy." He says
he actually loses weight when he eats the high-end food at his
restaurant. "The problem with the American diet is the convenience
foods, the transfats in chips and snack foods. That’s the real
Shelton is among the new breed of chef turned celebrity, his face the
first to grace the cover of Gourmet magazine. His restaurant, the
Ryland Inn, with bells and whistles that include a three-acre organic
garden and a helipad, was the first outside Manhattan to be awarded
four stars by the New York Times and was voted the number one
restaurant in New Jersey by Zagat Restaurant Review, New Jersey
Monthly, and Gourmet Magazine. Since taking over the Ryland Inn in
1991, Shelton has received critical acclaim and was selected as one of
20 chefs to appear on the public television’s series "Great Chefs of
The irony of Shelton’s career track, however, is that he never set out
to become a chef. In fact, he went to Yale University and graduated in
1982 with a double major in English and molecular biophysics and
biochemistry. "I discovered that M-B and B was not the best come-on to
meet girls, so I started an informal dining club. I put together
menus, got wine, and got Robin Winks, the master of Berkeley College,
to allow us to use the Swiss Room and do dinner parties." Shelton’s
college club would prove to be the perfect training ground for
starting his own restaurant, one of the last frontiers he felt in
which a young man could become CEO of his own company and call all the
shots. "You get to combine a love of the arts, business, and people.
You get to choose the aesthetics of the setting, you get to choose the
music and the food and the wine and the kind of experience people are
going to have."
Remarkably, Shelton, the son of an engineer who worked on the
navigation systems of submarines, never went to cooking school.
Instead, he took advantage of family connections in Europe to work in
restaurants after graduating. It helped that he had dual
French-American citizenship thanks to his French mother, even though
he was born in Maine. Says Shleton: "My mother’s father and mother
owned a restaurant in Cognac, France, so I had spent lots of summers
while growing up eating fine food. My uncles and aunts had bottles of
wine in the cellar, the kind you would have to blow the dust off when
you brought them up. So I was introduced at a very young age to the
glory of these bottles and fine food." He says his mother also was an
Shelton ended up training with many of the finest chefs of Europe.
"It’s like Joe Torre saying, ‘I’d like to take your son out of
baseball college and work with the New York Yankees.’ Only a handful
of cooking school graduates will get to work with the superstar chefs
of Europe." While his science background comes in handy in the kitchen
with regard to temperatures and the mixing of, say, protein and starch
molecules, Shelton maintains that his best training to be a chef and
businessman was the strong liberal arts grounding he received at Yale.
"English literature, history, art history, science, they are the
sources for creativity and leadership and the best foundation for a
When it came time to open a restaurant, he looked for a place where he
could find ingredients as fresh as the ones in France. "I needed a
place where we could organically grow our vegetables. We didn’t pick
New Jersey by default. We picked it as our first choice. Not only are
the soil and climate similar to Burgundy, France, the lifestyle here
is enviable in the extreme. We also have the finest schools on earth."
His wife, Isabelle, is co-owner of the restaurant. Their daughter,
Olivia, is 15; son William, who Shelton says bows to peer pressure and
will only eat "white foods," is 6; and 11-month-old Juliette, who,
with only eight teeth, already has a sophisticated palate that runs to
toro, the tuna used in sushi. Shelton says he is amazed at just how
sophisticated most of the diners at his restaurant are. "We have
people who have traveled all over the world and eaten everywhere that
counts, and they are very appreciative of our food."
Scott Cutaneo, chef-proprietor of Le Petit Chateau in Bernardsville,
is also appreciative of the kind of clientele that comes to eat at his
restaurant in the heart of Somerset County’s horse country. "We know
they have the income to eat anywhere in the world, and when they
choose us, I’m always honored," says Cutaneo, who is accustomed to
cooking for the world’s elite, including heads of state, top
executives, and political figures. He recently did an event for Rupert
Murdoch, one of the world’s richest men. Cutaneo was chosen as a fine
dining consultant at the Olympic Games for the executive committees of
the top corporate Fortune 500 companies, and he recently cooked for
CEOs and business moguls gathered at the Masters golf tournament in
For the Chefs with Heart event, Cutaneo has chosen to make one of his
specialties, short-rib ravioli. "It’s for a good cause and it’s
cooking for special people," he says, adding that some of the event
planners came by the restaurant recently with one of the heart
survivors. "They’re great people. Sometimes the patients don’t have
the kind of money that’s needed to pay for treatment or to generate
awareness. That’s why I want to help. If everybody in the world would
give just a dollar, there are a few different causes that would be
taken care of forever."
Cutaneo notes that many New Jersey residents think they have to go to
New York for a fine dining experience when they can get just as good
and even better right in their own backyard. "People will spend more
money to go to New York. They have to pay for gas, the babysitter, the
tolls, and since most fine dining restaurants are in midtown, it’s
often $50 just to park the car. It’s frustrating to see them go to get
that subliminal experience of the skyscrapers, when they can get a lot
more personal attention right here in New Jersey. After a meal I’ll go
out to the guests and ask, ‘How is everything?’ It’s not just interest
in the quality of the food but the quality of the experience."
Cutaneo says another challenge for New Jersey restaurant owners is the
recent spate of corporate malfeasance that’s made news headlines and
curbed a lot of corporate wining and dining activity. He also cites
the recent Supreme Court vote that allows wineries to sell their
products directly online to consumers in some states, cutting out the
middle man. While the ruling will mostly hurt liquor stores, Cutaneo
predicts it may also affect restaurants when patrons look at the wine
list and find the prices expensive by comparison.
Cutaneo, 36, grew up in Staten Island and went to St. Peter’s Boys
High School, then Boston University. He fell in love with cooking the
summer between his freshman and sophomore years. "I had what was
called a front-of-the-house externship at the Royal Windsor Hotel in
Belgium, more on the business end. But I quickly abandoned that and
went into the kitchen. I was a go-getter, sometimes to the point of
being a pain in the neck. I wanted to learn, keep moving up, I was
impatient." He went back to BU and graduated in 1989, finishing
college in two-and-a-half years with a four-year degree in business by
taking eight to ten classes a semester. And on top of that took side
He was able to get paying jobs in Europe because, like Shelton, he has
has dual citizenship, in his case Irish-American. "I got to work with
Jan Raven, one of the top chefs in Europe, so I was privy to some of
the most interesting new plates on the continent," Cutaneo says. After
college he went to work for the Marriott Marquis Corporation in New
York as a purchaser, handling food and wine and managing a $25 million
a year growth business. But his true love was in the kitchen.
He trained in Holland and Paris and worked in two Michelin three-star
establishments, including L’Espadon at the Ritz in Paris. In 1996,
after working at Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan, Cutaneo signed on as
Le Petit Chateau’s new chef. He became owner a few months later and
started collecting four-star reviews. He also won repeated listings in
Charles Dale’s "The Chefs’ Guide to America’s Best Restaurants." This
past fall Le Petit Chateau was chosen as one of the six best French
restaurants in the country on the TVFN show "The Best Of," hosted by
Jill Cordes and Marc Silverstein.
Cutaneo says the French approach to food is a healthy one because it’s
not just about the quality of the food, the freshest and finest
ingredients possible; it’s also about portion size. "The French are
happy with an appetizer, an entree, and dessert. Americans are all
about buffets, I need to be full, I need a lot of food, and the whole
bigger is better super-size thing. The French look to savor the
sublime experience as opposed to looking for the best value." That,
compounded with vigor for physical activity, is why most French people
are able to eat so well and not gain weight. "The public
transportation system in France isn’t very good. They don’t take
subways, and there are not a lot of taxis so you have to walk and
Paris is so beautiful anyway."
He loves to get up in the morning and go to work. As the father of
12-year-old twin boys, Cutaneo hopes to inculcate a strong work ethic
in them at an early age. "They’ll both work in the restaurant whether
they like it or not," he says with a laugh.
Chefs with Heart will include a silent auction. Items up for bid
include a dinner party for 12 at a private home by Craig Shelton and a
team from the Ryland Inn. That package has a minimum bid of $10,000.
Other auction items include a Jasna Polana golf package for four with
dinner and an overnight stay, a ladies lunch in a private room at the
Lawrenceville Inn, a champagne picnic brunch for four at Rats at
Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, a private wine tasting and dinner
party with chef Jim Weaver at Tre Piani and a hometown tailgate
package with 10 tickets to a Princeton football game and a basket of
tailgate food that Weaver will help put together.
Karen Laub, who is chair of the Council on Hospital Auxiliaries for
the New Jersey Hospital Association and an NJHA board member, knows
something about heart disease as well. Her father had bypass surgery,
performed by her husband, Glenn, who also operated on his own uncle,
an athletic man in his 50s. "You wouldn’t have imagined that he would
suffer from heart disease," says Laub, who is also a past president of
the St. Francis Medical Center Auxiliary and sits on the foundation
board of the St. Francis Medical Center. "The reality is that with its
numbers, heart disease affects almost every family in America."
Proceeds from Chefs with Heart will benefit the American Heart
Association to support research and education. Cardiovascular diseases
and stroke are the nation’s number one and number three killers,
claiming nearly 930,000 American lives annually. The American Heart
Association serves a population of close to 8.6 million people in New
Jersey’s 21 counties.
Says Laub of the event: "It’s a wonderful package of culinary
offerings right here in our own backyard coming together in one
incredible venue and the chance to take something home as well. It’s
the opportunity to experience some of the finest food in the state and
to meet the chefs personally." Dine, drink, dance, and drum up money
for an important cause – an event guaranteed to do the heart good.
— Euna Kwon Brossman
Chefs with Heart, to benefit the American Heart Association, Thursday,
June 2, 6 to 10 p.m., the Tournament Players Club at Jasna Polana,
Princeton. $150. 856-546-5600.
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