Annual Chef’s Night Out Celebrates Food, Fun & OCVTS Students

Students from OCVTS get to shine at the annual Chef's Night Out event. (Photo by Jason Allentoff)

TOMS RIVER – Breezes Bar & Grill of New Gretna, New Jersey was the big winner of the night at the 22nd Annual Chef’s Night Out & Gift Auction on Tuesday, March 12. Over 40 New Jersey restaurants, bakeries, breweries, and vineyards came together at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena in Toms River for a night brimming with food, fun, and prizes.

This was the 22nd year of the Ocean County Foundation for Vocational Education’s largest fundraiser. The Foundation is part of the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools.

Photo by Jason Allentoff

“All of the money goes toward scholarships for students coming into vocational school or equipment for the classrooms, something above and beyond what our regular budget would purchase,” said Nancy Weber-Loeffert, Assistant Superintendent at OCVTS.

Weber-Loeffert estimated that the event would see over 1,000 people. Tickets to the event cost $60, or $75 at the door. She noted that most people buy their tickets ahead of time for $60 and that the event was expected to bring in a total of about $40,000 this year.

Last year’s fundraiser raised about $32,000, and Weber-Loeffert added that, “we expect that it’s going to be bigger and better,” this year.

Various popular, local restaurants came out, such as Bahama Breeze in Toms River, Cuisine on the Green in Little Egg Harbor, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, The Olive Garden, and Yellow Brick Road Ice Cream Carousel in Toms River, among many others.

The OCVTS students had a beautifully decorated table brimming with handmade, tasty treats. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

In addition to the dozens of renowned establishments involved in the evening’s competition for the “People’s Choice” award, the OCVTS students also whipped up some treats to serve. The OCVTS students were not involved in the competition for a prize, but they were able to show off their culinary prowess learned and practiced in vocational school by serving handmade seafood dishes and desserts alongside the vendors.

“Vocational education has been underrated, and finally now it’s coming back and we’re getting some notoriety,” said Weber-Loeffert.

She explained that vocational education produces the HVAC guy, the plumber, the electrician, or the woman or man that styles your hair, among many other professions by teaching students in these specialized skill areas.

“It’s a school of choice,” she said. “Students are with us because they want to be and because they have a career view.”

Restaurants, vineyards, and breweries lined the walls of the arena serving up their own specialties. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

The OCVTS students’ table was mobbed with people throughout the entire event, looking to taste their creations. Some students provided an array of desserts, including tarts, macaroons, and chocolate treats, while others prepared small servings of a special octopus dish.

One OCVTS student, 16-year old Sage, said that the evening was great experience and, “it took a lot of prep work.” He said that some of the prep took place at the school and then they had to transport materials over to the Arena for serving.

In addition to the abundance of food and drink, the evening also included a 50/50 raffle with winnings totaling up to over $5,000. There were door prizes and tons of items for the Gift Auction. Attendees could win anything from a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card to a trip to Aruba in a five-star resort.

Senor Sangria was the winner for the Beverage Favorite award. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

At the end of the evening, the winners were announced:

  • First Place “People’s Choice”: Breezes Bar & Grill, New Gretna, NJ
  • Second Place: Eagle Ridge Golf Club, Lakewood, NJ
  • Third Place: Office Restaurant & Lounge/The Villa, Toms River, NJ
  • Sweet Treat: Sweet Marie’s Bakery, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
  • Beverage Favorite: Senor Sangria, Maplewood, NJ
The hallways were decked out with tables displaying the various prizes one could win in the Gift Auction. (Photo by Kimberly Bosco)