With the approach of the summer season, Chef B.J. Brown of Spring Lake's Bistro by the Beach has high hopes for his new restaurant.
The 31-year-old New England Culinary Institute graduate believes his take on seasonal, American cuisine will please all of those who will visit the Spring Lake beachfront this year— whether they're locals, visitors, beachgoers looking a quick lunch or those looking for a gourmet, yet affordable dinner.
The restaurant, located in the ground floor of the Sandpiper Inn on Atlantic Avenue, will be open for three meals a day, every day this summer.
His breakfast menu varies from some of the usual fare, such as eggs and omelets, to more unique dishes including his egg and avocado sandwich and his signature peanut butter and jelly french toast— a "kid inspired" delicacy on fresh brioche bread.
For lunch, Brown used the beach as his inspiration.
"I'm 200 feet away from the Atlantic Ocean," he said, noting he hopes to make an impact with beachgoers. "You have to sit on the beach and say 'What do I want for lunch today?'"
He hopes that a fresh, "beachy" lunch menu with items including a number of salads, flat breads and sandwiches will hit the spot for hungry visitors, looking to get out of the sun and enjoy a meal.
After they enjoy lunch, the chef hopes to entice return visits with an innovative dinner menu that includes soups and salads, appetizers like shrimp fritters and sliders and an array of entree selections from day boat scallops to free-range chicken bruschetta, a staple at Brown family events.
When preparing his menu, Brown followed a simple philosophy.
"I like to go from ground to plate," he said, noting a concentration flavors, simplicity and proper cooking techniques. The chef puts an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients purchased from local purveyors.
"Small business supporting small business," he added. "To me, that's important."
Brown explained that quality is his top priority, whether it's in his natural organic chicken or New Jersey-grown produce.
"I won't put something on a dish that I'm not happy with," he said.
He explained that he will change his menu four times a year to reflect the availability of fresh ingredients.
The Freehold Township resident was a fixture at several area restaurants before finally taking the plunge into business ownership himself this spring.
"I've been cooking since I was 14-years-old," he said.
Brown began working in the kitchen of Chef Dan Cummings at the Grenville Hotel in Bay Head. Later he served as executive souix chef at Mumford Culinary Center before making the move to D'Jeet? in Shrewsbury, where he worked until early May, when he left to start Bistro by the Beach.
"I want to be my own boss," the chef said simply, explaining that he hopes to make a better life for his young and growing family. Brown's wife of three years, Erika, will manage the staff and his 18-month-old son Connor can often be seen running around the restaurant.
Putting together an entirely new restaurant was no easy task.
"I have a great staff," Brown said. "We're almost like family."
The restaurant held a soft open for friends and family on May 14 and is now fully open to the public.
Frequently the first one to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night, the young chef explains the secret to his ability to work the grueling hours: "A lot of coffee."