Chef Sam Fertik has always had a love for cooking and—more importantly—eating. Fertik’s love stems from the days of cooking yummy treats with his grandmother at family dinners. At the age of 14, wanting to work in a “real” kitchen, he secured his first job with a catering company. His first task was counting asparagus, but he quickly moved from his asparagus counting days to running parties every weekend. Fertik graduated from The Culinary Institute of America with an even greater passion for the culinary arts. After his studies, he embarked on a culinary expedition through Europe. Upon his return, Fertik trained under Julian Alonzo of Brasserie 8 1/2 and then went on to become the Executive Chef at Tula Restaurant and Lounge, in New Brunswick. In 2011, missing the world of catering, he returned to that space—bringing all of his experiences with him. Fertik continues to consult and work on many different projects throughout the country.
JERSEY BITES: What is your earliest food memory?
CHEF FERTIK: Washing dishes in the small sink next to my grandma (who was washing them in the big sink) and using my own small bottle of dawn.
When did you realize you wanted to make cooking a career? Was there an “a-ha” moment?
Not really an a-ha moment. More of a steady “I like this,” “it seems fun,” and “I like to make people happy and inspired through food.”
Any interesting stories about where and with whom you started cooking professionally?
That’s a dangerous topic, I think you should read Kitchen Confidential…
What is your cooking style?
Modern with classic techniques and flavors and influence from around the world.
What is the greatest/neatest opportunity that has come from cooking?
So many, from cooking for billionaires, to getting access to amazing spaces, the sky’s the limit.
What is the most memorable meal you’ve had, what did you eat and where was it?
That’s a tough one, but one that I always talk about is my lunch at Guy Savoy, in Paris. It lasted for almost six hours and was just amazing. I remembered being awestruck when Guy came out himself.
It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Goodness, I do love a good bagel. I think I’d start there.
What is the best advice you have to share with young folks interested in becoming chefs?
Try it out, LISTEN to the folks who have been around especially when they talk about the hours, and stress. You can be the master of your own destiny in this business if you are smart!
If you could choose to be any food item, what would it be?
Bread dough, you get kneaded, left in a warm place, you make some alcohol, and then you get toasty. Then, you get all sorts of cool stuff put onto your slices… jam, jelly, charcuterie…
What is the one “staple” food you always have in your cupboard at home?
Frosted Flakes…. And quinoa, it’s a great grain, I love it and eat it all the time.
What is your beverage of choice?
So many different options, I love craft beer, and craft liquors.
What is your favorite comfort food?
My Grandma’s meatball recipe has never let me down.
What New Jersey restaurant do you enjoy dining at, besides your own?
There are a few that I really like, from Elements in Princeton, to Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living, deceased or fictional, who would they be and why?
Escoffier, Thomas Keller and Paul Bocuse. They are truly the MASTERS of the culinary world.
Are you working on any upcoming projects our readers would be interested in learning about?
Besides our brand new Chef’s Table (tasting menu, sitting right in the kitchen) I have a few other things up my sleeve but they will just have to wait and see!
Orange and Olive Caterers and Chef’s Table
398 Central Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07307
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.