On February 27, 2012, JBJ Soul Kitchen was transformed into a casual, yet elegant dining room with the accents of yellow calla lilies and candle light adorning the table settings. White linens and the bright yellow menus on every table set the mood for what was to become our first guest chef night.
Mario Batali, chef/owner of 13 restaurants, as well as TV personality of shows such as The Chew, Iron Chef America and Molto Mario graced the Soul Kitchen to cook an eclectic fare of what he called New Jersey inspired Italian food. He was joined by his executive chef and sous chef from Babbo, as well as his wine steward Patrick from Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and hospitality & green initiative specialist Elizabeth. Our own Chef Terrence, also assisted them in the kitchen. They prepared an awesome selection of seasonal menu items off their current menu.
As the guests arrived, they were greeted at the door by Soul Kitchen’s Outreach Coordinator Lynne and one of our favorite volunteers Erika. As they were escorted in they received a fresh squeezed Blood Orange Bellini to cleanse their pallet and begin the navigation through Mario's menu.
First Course: Neci, a chestnut flour crepe filled with wild mushrooms and parmigiano topped with a light radicchio salad.
Second Course: Lune, a hand made ravioli filled with pumpkin and sweet potato puree finished with a brown butter sage sauce.
Third Course: Hen, a seared Guinea Hen thigh deboned and over with fregula and a black truffle vinaigrette.
Dessert: Budino, a fig and apple cake with creme fraiche and a small biscotti.
The dinner was a huge success, between the Bellini and the Ravioli the guests, most of which were local business owners and friends, could not stop raving about the magical and entertaining experience.
For the Soul Kitchen, it was exactly what we had hoped it would be, a success. It assisted us in raising awareness of and funds for our mission: to empower the hungry to provide for themselves by taking advantage of volunteer opportunities within the community and, thereby, earning a healthy and nutritious meal. We hope that this effort will help eradicate food insecurity in communities by providing opportunities for people in need to have access to nutritious meals on a daily basis for themselves and their families.