Delicious success Largest crowd ever at 'A Taste of Weehawken' to benefit library
by : Jim Hague
May 09, 2006 | 1111 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After pitching for the Weehawken High School varsity baseball team, Shawn Dorman had to quickly change from his baseball digs into his lily-white chef suit.

Dorman participates in the Weehawken High School Culinary Arts program and he had to take on the daunting task of feeding 500 hungry patrons as part of the annual "A Taste of Weehawken" fundraiser for the Weehawken Free Public Library.

More than $15,000 was raised from the event to assist the library.

Dorman and his fellow high school students and budding chefs prepared pan-fried chicken and a green bean salad with vinaigrette dressing. They were one of the roughly 35 food preparers, caterers, and restaurateurs that dished out healthy samplings of their tasty treats for a good cause.

"We spent the last two days preparing for this," said Casey Soimes, another member of the Culinary Arts Program, headed by teacher Alan Hecht. "We're here to have fun. I think our teacher was a little more nervous than we were."

The Weehawken students' table was situated directly across the aisle from the Hudson County Culinary Arts Institute's table, with famed chef Paul Dillon creating his signature crab cakes.

Dillon, who gained fame in recent years as the host of the Comcast Network's popular daily cooking show "Let's Cook," was drawing attention because of his fame - and because he was preparing crab cakes.

"I always do crab cakes," Dillon said. "People love them."

Chicken and crabs So here were the teenagers cooking away while a chef known by thousands was close by. Talk about pressure. "I don't know if there was that much pressure on us," Dorman said. "I think we were prepared."

Obviously, they were prepared because people flocked to their table to sample the chicken.

"We got to see a lot of familiar faces," Soimes said. "The reaction was very positive and people said that they loved our food."

The chicken was, indeed, scrumptious. So were Dillon's crab cakes.

"I do about 20 of these shows a year," said Dillon, who is the main instructor at the Hudson County Culinary Arts Institute, a portion of the Hudson County Community College program, in Jersey City. "But since this one is so close to home, it is really important to me. There are two benefits for our students to be here: they get a chance to socialize and deal with the community before they hit the real world and they get a chance to get their name out there for possible jobs."

Dillon said that this year's "A Taste of Weehawken" was the best of the four he had participated in. This was the sixth annual culinary fundraising event for the public library, to help the library start programs outside of the general budget.

In fact, the consensus from the regulars who have attended the event each year was that this year was clearly the best.

Judge knows the truth "It was a typically warm and friendly Weehawken event," said retired State Supreme Court Justice Marie Garibaldi, a long-time Weehawken resident. "This was definitely the most crowded and the best one. They've widened their scope with the variety of different foods, which takes on the true spirit of Weehawken."

Garibaldi also gave credit to the young chefs.

"I thought their food was very good, equally as good as the restaurants," Garibaldi said.

Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner was constantly being tugged at to try one sampling after another.

"The one thing I heard most from everyone is that they were impressed with the variety of foods," Turner said. "It was a great community event for a good cause. Everyone stayed to the end - it was a very large and impressive turnout."

West New York Mayor Albio Sires, who is running for United States Congress, also attended.

"I've been here before, but this is definitely the best," Sires said. "The restaurants do a great job preparing and donating the food, and it truly becomes a cultural event."

Joyce Flinn, the owner of Amanda's restaurant in Hoboken and a resident of Weehawken, had her chef prepare seared tuna with creamer potato and fava bean vinaigrette salads.

"This event reflects Weehawken," Flinn said. "As our town grows, so do our restaurant choices. It's a great way for us to see our neighbors and other businesses. We also love to support our beloved library."

Second Ward Councilwoman Rosemary Lavagnino echoed Flinn's sentiments.

"This is the best one ever," Lavagnino said. "Our ethnic population is expanding and the cuisine follows along with it."

Some of the different ethnic varieties offered included food from Thailand, Morocco, France, Italy, and a host of Hispanic choices.

While everyone was munching away, they were treated to entertainment from Classjazz, the ensemble headed by Webster School music teacher Piero Romano, and the Weehawken High School Jazz Ensemble.

It was a great night, but it won't change the way Dorman lives at home.

"I don't cook at home, only in school," Dorman said. "My mom does the cooking at home."

His father, North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue Firefighter John Dorman also cooks, but he's relegated to the firehouse.

"This was a great experience for me," the younger Dorman said. "I really learned a lot."

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