Welcome back, foodies! I hope you are having a great week.
As a food writer covering two counties, I meet a lot of people. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job, getting to know the chefs, bakers, servers, bartenders and many others who make our local food world go ’round.
In this week’s newsletter, I want to tell you about one of them.
Five years ago, I met Chef Chris Mumford during a cooking class hosted by The Asbury Park Press at his culinary school and cafe, Mumford’s Culinary Center in Tinton Falls. Mumford was a farm-to-table cook who grew vegetables outside his restaurants before it was the thing to do.
I loved watching him teach the class. His passion for food – both growing and cooking it – was contagious.
The following year, I sat with Mumford on the deck of his Allenhurst home after he made the decision to close his restaurant of 20 years. He wasn’t closing because he didn’t love cooking anymore — it had simply become too big.
Last week, I was back in Mumford’s backyard, only this time, I followed him around his now much, much larger garden. The chef has shifted his focus to selling plants (heirloom tomatoes, onions, kale, asparagus, basil, lettuce, beets and so on) that he grows from seed.
His goal? To teach people how easy it can be to grow their own food. And to compost; he’d love it if everyone did that.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m ok with it,” said Mumford, 61, of his new venture. “It’s a joy. I’m just reinventing myself.”
Long Branch’s Inkwell Coffeehouse has closed
Speaking of changes, a sad one to share this week: Inkwell Coffeehouse, a Long Branch institution known for its live music, open mic nights and Dutch coffee, has closed.
“It’s time,” owner Anthony Esposito said. “I’ve been there for 21 years and I’m exhausted.”
Fans flooded the coffeehouse’s social media pages with memories of the Inkwell, a beloved late-night spot and gathering place.
“This is where me and my best friend went and hung out for the first time,” read one comment on Instagram. “My go-to for the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, where I went with loved ones on multiple occasions … it hurts but I’m glad I came in a month or two ago, now realizing for the last time.”
“I just came to the conclusion now that I need to take a step back,” Esposito said. “My kids are getting older, and we kept it going for over two decades, but it’s time to move on.”
Juanito’s Charcoal Grill opening in Red Bank
Let’s end on a positive note, with news of a new restaurant.
Juan Torres, who since the 1990s has been serving classic Mexican food at Juanito’s Restaurant in Red Bank, will open Juanito’s Charcoal Grill in the borough this Saturday.
“I came to this country (from Mexico in 1982) with nothing and I started washing dishes,” Torres said. “I learned how to be a cook because I was a chef for different country clubs, so I decided to start my own business and make the food people wanted.”
The restaurant, led by Juanito’s Chef Ismael Ortega Marin, will serve chicken, pork and steaks cooked on an open-pit, charcoal grill. The menu also includes seafood nachos topped with shrimp, scallops and tuna; fresh-grilled cuts like New York strip steak topped with grilled shrimp; tacos; and churros topped with bananas, strawberries flambé and vanilla ice cream.
That’s all for this week! Until next time, find more local food stories at:
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: A love of food lasts a lifetime