Chefs showcase their signature dishes to raise money for the food insecure

1776 by David Burke, a new restaurant in Morristown

For the past two years, Table to Table, New Jersey’s first food-rescue organization that serves North Jersey’s hungry, held its much-anticipated, super-delicious fundraiser, dubbed Chefs Gala, online. Instead of coming together to eat, drink and bid for auctioned items to help raise money to feed 460,000 people a year, gala attendees sat home, had their gourmet meals delivered to them, and watched taped speeches on screens and bid via an app.

Not this year.

Come September 21, six acclaimed chefs, among them David Burke of 1776 in Morristown and Ventanas at the Modern in Fort Lee, Tom Valenti of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown and Ben Pollinger of The Hill in Closter, will get out their knives and butter their pans to whip up a five-course meal for approximately 250 people who will gather at the Edgewood Country Club in River Vale to help Table to Table do its nourishing work.

“We are thrilled people supported the gala the past two years,” said Ilene Isaacs, executive director. “But there’s nothing like being in person. We love to connect and see old friends and we love to make new friends. The gala is a wonderful way to tell people who we are, and show some of what we do.”

What Table to Table has been doing for the past 23 years is pick up fresh food from supermarket, food distributors, commercial kitchens and restaurants that would otherwise be thrown away and bring the sustenance to organizations that feed the hungry. To date, Table to Table, which serves Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Passaic Counties, has delivered more than 227 million meals and prevented 71,500 tons of food from ending up in landfills.

It hopes that the money the gala raises will pay for 4 million more meals that, Isaacs said “is so needed now in the community,” and adding that the need is exacerbated currently by inflation and the high cost of food.

“For the past couple of years, COVID was the crisis, but the food insecure are still here because of inflation and the relative high cost of living here as compared to other areas,” Isaacs said. “People are really struggling. It may not be as much a hot topic now, but healthy food is the first thing to go (when money is tight).” It is estimated that 2 million people are food insecure in New Jersey.

Every year the gala has a guest of honor. This year it is Michel Nischan, a four-time James Beard Award winning chef and a leader in the Food is Medicine movement. Nischan also founded and partnered with actor Paul Newman to open and run the now-shuttered Dressing Room Restaurant in Westport, CT. Restaurateur Drew Nieporent (Tribeca Grill, Nobu New York City, Nobu Fifty Seven, Nobu London, Nobu Next Door and Bâtard), who was a longtime Ridgewood resident, will bestow the honor.

In addition to Burke, Valenti and Hill, the chefs who will prepare courses are: cookbook author and reality TV personality Rocco DiSpirito; John Mooney of Bell Book & Candle, a restaurant in New York City that gets most of its produce from a roof garden; Peter X. Kelly of award-winning X20 in Yonkers, and Restaurant X in Congers, both in New York; and Anthony Villanueva of the Edgewood Country Club. The wines are coordinated by Carlo Russo Wine & Spirit World in Ho-Ho-Kus.

What’s on the menu: local tuna tartare, slow-roasted Faroe island salmon, goat cheese ravioli, butter-basted filet mignon and key lime pie.

To find out more about the gala and Table to Table, visit


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