Monday, November 2, 2009

And the Beat Goes On

Three Generations of Great New Jersey Chefs

By Pat Tanner

The first inkling that Garden State foodies could be wowed by innovative, world-class cuisine without crossing the river into Manhattan came back in the ‘70s, in the tiny hamlet of Meyersville. It was there that brothers Dennis and John Foy opened the groundbreaking Tarragon Tree. The Foys eventually parted ways, and Dennis went on to establish a series of restaurants on both sides of the Hudson, some to great acclaim (Mondrian) and some not so much (Bay Point Prime). His latest venture is Dennis Foy’s Lawrenceville Inn, which opened in late October.

The legacy of the Tarragon Tree is the chain of young chefs that that kitchen begot. Here is just one branch of that family tree:

Dennis Foy’s Lawrenceville Inn. “Over the years my style of cooking has undergone a metamorphosis. It’s more focused and simplified,” Foy told me in a phone interview just days before he opened. So don’t expect fireworks on his Mediterranean-influenced menu, where most entrees stay under the $25 mark. Among the classics: butternut squash soup, cassoulet made with lamb, housemade pastas with Bolognese or carbonara sauces, crème brulee.

Craig Shelton at the Skylark Diner.
The most illustrious chef to emerge from the Tarragon Tree was a young Shelton, New Jersey’s most decorated chef whose (shuttered) Ryland Inn brought national acclaim. Shelton is currently ensconced daily as consulting chef at this splashy Route 1 diner in Edison, where he is developing a concept he labels “dinering.”

Scott Anderson at elements.
Among the myriad top chefs to emanate, in turn, from the Ryland Inn is this relative youngster, whose high-concept modern American restaurant in Princeton just celebrated its first year. It started strong (see my review from earlier this year here) and continues to excel. A recent nine-course tasting menu at the chef’s table there solidified my opinion that elements is currently the most exciting restaurant in the state.

For all of these stars, I say, thank you, Dennis Foy. I can hardly wait for the fourth generation.

1 comment:

Warren Bobrow said...

Dennis Foy is New Jersey royalty for chef's and here's why. He has been a star chef in NJ for longer than many of the "so-called" star chefs have been alive. Those years of experience have honed his food to reveal the inner flavors, not complex-20 ingredients on a plate, all competing for attention kind of cooking