TOMS RIVER – The sugary treats and savory samples abounded and the drink never stopped flowing at this year’s Chef’s Night & Gift Auction. In its 23rd year, the annual event is hosted by the Ocean County Foundation for Vocational Technical Education in support of OCVTS students.
The RWJBarnabas Health Arena, on the campus of High School North, was filled with hundreds of foodies and members of the community on March 11, sampling the local fair and unique treats whipped up by OCVTS culinary students.
Nancy Weber-Loeffert, OCVTS Assistant Superintendent, was certain that this year’s turnout matched, if not exceeded, last year’s. The 2018 Chef’s Night raised more than $40,000 for the Foundation, and she had high hopes of exceeding that number.
“Every year it goes up…our sponsors get more, and bigger and better, our raffle outside gets bigger and better,” said Weber-Loeffert. “We raise all the money for equipment for the school beyond the school budget and for programs and scholarships, so all of the money goes back to the students.”
This year featured around 40 vendors ranging from the local ShopRite to popular chain restaurants to up-and-coming brewers. All of the vendors supply their time and effort for the cause while also vying for that coveted spot as People’s Choice winner.
Local restaurants, such as Bill’s BBQ Shack, served up barbeque pork belly and homemade potato salad. Local bakery JG Desserts set up a “make your own parfait” station stacked with chocolate goodies and a variety of toppings. Last year’s first place winner, Breeze’s Bar & Grill of New Gretna, served up mini helpings of tuna poke. Attendees could have a taste of anything from pasta, to seafood, to cake, and more.
There was also a big showing in beverage vendors including, Allagash Brewery, River Horse Brewery, Dogfish Head Brewery, and last year’s beverage favorite, Senor Sangria.
The big winner of the evening was Mulberry Street of Brick, coming out on top as the People’s Choice for 2019.
The other big winners of the night included:
- 2nd Place: Bill’s BBQ Shack, Bayville
- 3rd Place: Office Restaurant & Lounge, Toms River
- Sweet Treat: JG Desserts, Toms River
- Beverage Favorite: Allagash Brewery, Portland, MA
- Best Presentation: Patrizia’s, Red Bank
While the OCVTS culinary students were not in the running for these titles, they were still the star of the night. Student Jerry DeNico told Jersey Shore Online that the prep time is weeks for all of the treats made specifically for Chef’s Night. Fellow student Chelsea noted that for the approximately 300 baked goods they prepare, only about 40 can fit on a pan at a time.
“We’ve got to space them out good so they can grow in the oven, so probably less than 40 in a pan,” she explained. “It takes a lot; we did it for almost two weeks.”
All of the hard work that these students put in paid off, however. Their table was one of the busiest of the night. The students said they were extremely happy with the outcome.
The evening wasn’t only about food either. Lining the halls of Toms River North High School were tables overflowing with gift auction items. At the entrance into the arena stood the Super 50/50 Raffle, valued up to $10,000.
The lucky winners of the gift auction might have made out with a basket of wine or a brand new paddle board, while OCVTS students made out with funds for a brighter future.