FRANKLIN, NJ—As the sun set over the picturesque grounds on the Palace at Somerset Park on June 2, guests filed into its grand foyer for an evening of delectable bites and philanthropic merry making.
The evening marked the annual Elijah's Promise Chef's Night — a benefit to raise support for the Promise Culinary School.
For over thirteen years, the vocational program has provided culinary training to the community, offering tuition assistance to veterans, displaced workers, and the disabled.
In the first "Chef's Night" event since a new leader took over at the non-profit, the group says they exceeded their fundrasing numbers from last year.
"Money is still coming in for Chef's Night, but we expect when it all arrives we will raise $85,000 thanks to the amazing generosity of the participating restaurants, the Palace at Somerset Park, our sponsors & attendees," said Jim Zullo, the Executive Director of Elijah's Promise.
"That is consistent with what we have raised over the last few years."
Of the thirty-seven restaurants, bakeries, beer purveyors, wine merchants, coffee roasters and chocolatiers sampling their goods, some of the most popular treats of the night came from Promise Culinary School graduates.
Pam Johnson, proprietor of Pam J's Bread, showcased a spread of sweet and savory bread puddings. A graduate of the program and currently Head Chef at the Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen, Ms. Johnson found inspiration in resourcefulness.
"At times we would have a lot of bread left over," said Johnson. "What better way to use it than bread pudding?"
Johnson's creations go beyond traditional eggy custards. She cleverly combines cornbread with lump crabmeat and shrimp, sprinkled with a bit of Old Bay spice. Her roasted vegetables are baked between fluffy golden brown layers of French bread and top with a savory cream sauce.
Bread pudding enthusiasts will be able to sample her goods, as Johnson has plans to sell Pam J's Bread at the Suydam Farms Market, 1803 Route 27, Somerset, NJ.
Another crowd pleaser, corn pudding this green mole, came courtesy of Corazon Kitchen — a small group of local cooks that utilize the Elijah's Promise kitchen as an incubator for their start up. The group produces authentic Mexican moles, made with fresh ingredients and lots of passion.
“I enjoyed it immensely,” Zullo said. “It's a great exposure for the people that come through our culinary school that work here, because so many of them developed into great chefs and food people that it's great to give them the opportunity to expose their products.”