The stars of the photographic and culinary arts were in alignment when PRINCETON MAGAZINE photographers Benoit Cortet and Andrew Wilkinson met up with six area chefs: Air Force Veteran Ryan Daniels of Jasna Polana; Josh Thomsen, chef and part owner at Agricola, which will open later this year in the renovated former site of Princeton’s Lahiere’s; rod and reeler Matthew McElmoyl, of Oliver, a Bistro, in Bordentown; Sweetmama’s Beth Yoffe, who offers a recipe for apple crisp; former Executive Chef Pamela Horowitz, now the owner of a catering company; and Chris Graciano, who left the corporate world of Big Fish for Princeton’s Witherspoon Grill.
Beth Yoffe — A Princeton resident since 1986, Beth Yoffe of Sweetmama’s learned her first baking lesson at the age of 12 when she found that the ingredients in a recipe for blondies she had been given was in measurements that would feed an entire junior high school class. The lesson: “learn to resize!” Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, she graduated with honors from Boston University and moved to New York, where she began a career as a publicist at United Artists. In 1986, she and her husband moved to Princeton and in 1999, she started Sweetmama’s. “Our goal was simple: to make the most delicious desserts, using only the finest ingredients.” In a short time, she began selling desserts like Sweetmama’s Key Lime Pie, Lava Cakes, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie to restaurants and specialty shops. Sweetmama’s desserts are avilable at The Witherspoon Grill and Blue Point Grill and at local vendors like Nassau Street Seafood or Griggstown Quail Farm and Market.
Ryan Daniels — Chef Ryan Daniels served in the United States Air Force for four years, including two tours to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. His military service gave him the opportunity to travel the world experiencing different cuisines and cultures. After an honorable discharge in 2003, Ryan strived to follow his lifelong passion for cooking, beginning his professional culinary career at T.P.C. Jasna Polana as a Garde Manger cook and working his way up to the position of Executive Chef, where he is able to make the most of his passion for and knowledge of food. In his free time, Ryan spends his time with his wife Nichole and son Henry. In March of this year, Ryan and Nichole lost their daughter, Emma, to a rare neurological disease. What the family went through led Governor Christie to sign Emma’s Law mandating every newborn in the state of New Jersey to be screened for five rare disorders. If diagnosed in time, these diseases are treatable.
Christian John Graciano — At the age of 27, after working at a distribution center for eight years, Chris Graciano decided to follow his dream of becoming a chef, and attended The Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, where he studied under Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Executive Chef at Butter Restaurant and Food Network Star. After graduating in 2003, he was Sous Chef under Chef Mark Miller at Hamilton’s Grill Room in Lambertville. Besides assisting with seasonal menu planning, he enjoyed interacting with patrons while cooking in the open kitchen and wood burning grill and oven in the dining room. In 2005, he joined corporately- owned Big Fish, a Landry’s restaurant, where in less than a year he was promoted to Executive Chef. From there he went to the Witherspoon Grill in Princeton, where after less than a year as Executive Sous Chef, he was promoted to Executive Chef. He is responsible for the seasonal main menu, daily features, and special events, including food and wine pairing parties, Harvest Fest and Communiversity and charity events, such as Oyster Ball.
Pamela Horowitz — Pamela Horowitz has been an Executive Chef for over 20 years, holding high-profile positions in Washington D.C. (Lawson’s Gourmet), New York City (Between the Bread catering), Indianapolis (Hoaglin Fine Catering) and Philadelphia (the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology). Catering revenues at the Museum were at an all time high while Chef Pamela was in charge of all food operations. She received international acclaim in 1999 when she recreated the “Burial Feast of King Midas” for the Museum. This groundbreaking culinary event was made into a documentary film for the Discovery Channel by the New York Times and National Geographic Television. Horowitz and her husband Michael Yatvin started their own custom-to-the- client catering company, Provence Distinctive Catering, in the spring of 2002. Her creative cooking style has been featured on CNN, FOX-TV, NBC -TV, New York Times, New York Daily News and the Television Food Network.
Matthew McElmoyl — Chef Matthew McElmoyl of Bordentown’s Oliver, a Bistro, is a graduate of The Academy of Culinary Arts. Among his positions: Executive Chef at Renault Winery, Egg Harbor City, NJ and at Sails in Somers Point; Saucier at Chef Volas, Atlantic City and at The Flagstaff House, in Boulder, Colorado. In Philadelphia, he was Garde Manger, Entremetier at Brasserie Perrier, and Saucier at Lacroix. His cooking style: French technique with Mediterranean and Asian ingredients. Other influences: Central and South American, Caribbean. McElmoyl’s chef’s philosophy is: “Learn to respect the ingredient for what it is and where it comes from, the rest is easy.” His philosophy regarding guests: “I need them, they don’t need me, and I appreciate the opportunity to serve them.”
Josh Thomsen — New Jersey native Josh Thomsen credits his career ambition to his father Jerry, an accomplished amateur chef. As the Executive Chef at the historic Claremont Resort & Spa in Berkeley, California, he was named the Rising Star Chef for the Bay Area in 2010. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he’s worked with some of the most prominent chefs in the country, his major influence being Thomas Keller during a two-year stint at the French Laundry in the Napa Valley. Other ventures, all in Las Vegas, included the “Mansion” at the MGM Grand Hotel; Executive Sous Chef at Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern; overseeing the opening of three restaurants as Corporate Executive Chef for Innovative Dining Group; and spearheading the 400-seat Tao restaurant at the Venetian Resort, which became the highest grossing restaurant in the country during his two year tenure. Back in his home state as Executive Chef/Partner at Agricola restaurant in Princeton, Thomsen will offer a seasonal menu inspired by locally sourced organic ingredients, most from Agricola’s own Great Road Farm.
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