Mark C. Fearon Culinary Scholarship

The Mark C. Fearon Culinary Scholarship is now accepting applicants!  Please click on the link below to review the application requirements. We are only accepting students from the Culinary Education Center in Monmouth County who will be enrolling in the Brookdale Community College Culinary Arts Program.

MCF Culinary Scholarship Application

Our committee, Jared Gierisch, Emily Hueston, John Lachawiec and Ally Dwyer, Culinary Education Center graduates, will be reviewing all applications and essays after May 1st 2016.

Best of luck!




Ally's fundraiser-0004.jpg

Part i. building the oven + patience

Mark Fearon’s 10 year anniversary was quickly approaching this fall and I knew I wanted to do something to acknowledge him and his mark he left on me. I thought about it for a while until it suddenly came to me, a pizza party/fundraiser. Mark and I went to school together since kindergarten and for as long as I can remember we loved pizza. We would ride our bikes all over Middletown to different pizza places. Then once we got older we started making our own pizza. We would ditch school while our parents were at work just so we could make pizza.

Then we went to culinary school together and we started making so much more than pizza. I thought what better way to celebrate him, than a pizza party, who doesn’t love pizza?

I use to plan outdoor pizza events and we would rent these copper trailers and make pizza. So I thought great, I will rent one of those, order some pizza shells from my cousin’s pizza manufacturing company and call it a day. Then I started researching the trailers and realized they ranged from $4-5k for the day + you had to use their labor. I wanted to have our culinary classmates and current culinary students partake in the cooking and I didn’t want to spend that much money.

It was Labor Day weekend and I thought ya know I will just make a DIY outdoor pizza oven. I have three days off, I can do this. I thought I could do anything- not the case. I can’t even lift a bag of cement. I can’t even do proper mathematical dimensions for a project like this. I can’t even calculate the amount of bricks per square foot. I can’t use a saw. I don’t even have the proper vehicle to get these supplies. But it is ok I can do it. I researched a little before that weekend, put a facebook post out there asking for help and the project began… Sept. 4th

That weekend I had the lovely help of my step- brother, sister in-law, step father and friend. Once I started talking with these experienced folks I realized I was in over my head. But I had already had a pallet of cinderblocks delivered so I couldn’t back out now.

1st step- measuring


2nd step- digging


3rd step- tampering


4th step- building a form (one of many)


5th step- leveling the ground…

6th step- mixing cement. I miscalculated here and didn’t realize that we would need 18- 80 lb. bags of cement/mortar mix just for the base. So here is visit 2 out of at least 89 trips to Lowes. Thankfully I have strong wonderful friends who helped with lifting and delivering materials + several deliveries from Lowes, Rysers, Clayton, etc.

Who knew mixing cement was one of the hardest things? Buying a mixing from in the begin would have been brilliant. Right at about this step I should have realized that but no, we stuck with wheelbarrows and shovels for the duration of the project.

Ok, so here is when I realized the oven wouldn’t be done in 3 days. We needed to let the cement dry for days before we could continue. Oh boy was I disappointed. As an event planner, I started canceling all future plans and events for the next month. We had one month to finish this project. The fundraiser was supposed to be on October 4th.

In retrospect, the next building weekend was pretty easy. We laid the cinderblocks. My dad came up from North Carolina and helped. I did learn about splitting bricks; you can’t just lay bricks on each other, they have to be staggered aka I needed to figure out how to cut bricks. Lowes will not do this for you… So my handy friend figured out how to split them with a hammer and a mason chisel. This day I learned about spacers too. If you don’t know about bricks and forms I hope after reading this you have gained appreciation for all construction. If you look at bricks laid anywhere you will realize they are perfectly spaced with the same amount of cement, mortar, clay, grout, etc. throughout.  This is because of these wonderful helpful little things called spacers!



7th step- We had a foundation + a base!


But how were we going to get a top? This is where my dad was brilliant. We went to the mason yard at Rysers where I quickly developed a love for their brick selection and staff. I bought blue stone treds. I loved this part. Super easy. No mixing. No thinking. Just a good old caulking gun and some muscles to lift the treds on top of the base.

8th step- Ta da! We have a table top.


Ught oh, now how do we make the part that all of the delicious food will go on? The cooking service. It has to be smooth and withstand heat. I did this part and only this part by myself. As you can see, I didn’t do a good job. Eventually with the help of facetiming from across the country, my designated general contractor, Rob Stenger, told  me to put the tools down. We figured it out. We needed to stager the fire bricks on a diagonal.

Right so I didn’t mention that fire bricks and fire clay are critical for this project. Fire bricks are expensive and hard to find. Fire clay is even harder because it is a recipe of: quick active lime, sand, clay, Portland cement (3:1 ratio) and water. Moisture is key when mixing.

9th step- cooking surface. To get fire bricks on a diagonal I now had to buy my favorite power tool, a saw with a sweet mason blade. Game on- power tool time.

10th step- the oven form… the step that caused my most anxiety. The reason for majority of my sleepless nights. The reason I had nightmares of counting bricks and having to hire help.

We thought so hard about this part. I googled, called, read and consulted with every person I knew and didn’t know. I was calling my roomate’s dad’s friends. I was calling Ryser’s everyday. At this point I had made friend’s with the guys at Lowes. I would ask everyone, how were we going to make the form? We thought of: cutting a garbage can, bought a cement cardboard form, use an exercise ball and then popping it, a pile of sand, a metal form, wood, etc. the list goes on. Finally some smart friends banged out a wooden form in an hour. They did the measurements, we went to the lumber yard, sawed some wood and we had another form! A beautiful perfect form, thanks to Ross Mackay and Kevin Keelen.



11th step- how do we get rectangle bricks to go around a round form? Ehhhhhh I just wanted a square oven at this point. Note- outdoor ovens are round for a reason. Everything is for a reason. The opening is a certain size. The chimneys are always in front. Etc. Everything is for a reason so the oven can best produce and withstand heat. It has to be round, with a certain size opening, with a beautiful chimney in the front.

Ok so fire bricks around the wooden form…

Cut the bricks, mix the clay, use spacers (not little ones- you have to make your own), cover the form, cut bricks, get help.

Also, since I don’t know how to calculate properly so many days we had to stop because we ran out of materials. As previously mentioned, supplies like fire clay and fire bricks are not something you can go run out and grab on a Saturday. They have to be pre ordered. This would set us back time and time again. I never had enough of what I needed. Cinderblocks on the other hand… pallets of.

The form was finally covered in fire bricks!

12th step- chimney form

I was so happy to see an “oven”. But don’t get too excited. We essentially had to build an entire other oven on top of the fire bricks. An outdoor oven is two layers… Fire brick and then red bricks. The red bricks help hold all the heat in. Also, a fire brick is like a pizza stone you use at home. Great, so now we needed to build another layer.

Not only did we run out of supplies but we ran out of time… We had to push the event back. At this point I was putting every waking thought, dollar and minute into the project. It was going to be for a bigger cause. I reached out to Mark’s culinary school got students on board to come cook, old classmates on board, set up a scholarship fund. Ya know, go big or go home.

The oven got so big, physically way bigger than I had planned. Like I said I thought this was a cool weekend DIY project. Maybe some wood pallets with an oven on top. It was huge. The table top is over 4 ft. high. The actual oven is probably about 6ft. high (don’t hold me to it I still don’t know measurements) The oven is about 3.5 ft. deep.

Throughout the project I had so many emotions. I wanted to plan a fundraiser for Mark, our friends, his family, classmates, future culinarians, etc…. But I had a lot of emotions tied to this. I am an event planner; I plan a lot more complex events than a pizza party and my stress level with them are no where near close to the stress this caused me. I just wanted to come up with fun pizza ideas, maybe make some crafts and recognize Mark. The reality was, I was an emotional head case. I physically was in over my head because I couldn’t lift or do anything. The times I tried to lift something I hurt myself. I almost lost my finger one day. I tried lifting a tred and got my finger stuck in between two pieces; with a little bit of blood, Larry saved the day and my finger. But emotionally I was having a hard time with wrapping my head around my best friend being gone for 10 years. Every time I needed help I was so frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t there to help me. I had to rely on people volunteering and actually showing up to help during the time frames that we had.

The little things like running out of materials or there being a hurricane on the original event weekend would make me laugh and sometimes cry;  knowing that he was driving me crazy, just as he did when he was alive.

13th step- red brick oven overlay

We now only had a week to pull this together.  I was now deep into my busiest season with my event planning company and my full-time corporate job. Also, I don’t live at the construction site. As much as it seemed like I did from September through November, I really live in Jersey City and work in NYC + travel for work. One week. How were we going to do it? I was terrible to be around this week. Not that I was that enjoyable from September through November but this week specifically I was insane. Needless to say we pulled it off/ finished it the Tuesday night prior to the event with spot lights set up and building until 12 a.m. Thank you, Rob Stenger, for your dedication throughout the project but especially this day and night. You made it all happen.  This could not have come to life without you.


14th step- the most wonderful step of all, burning the oven form! What a glorious, yet scary step. I had nightmares that at this step the oven would collapse. It didn’t it just burned for hours while we sat in glory/front of it.


15th step- curing the oven aka making fires. This really should happen several times before you cook in it but I had a day to make a fire, the day before the event.

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Part ii. the fundraiser

Finally after 2+ months of building and losing my mind the fundraiser was here.  Thanks to help and encouragement from so many wonderful people. I couldn’t have done anything without all of you.

It was a wonderful fall day. We had the support of the Culinary Education Center that Mark and I had attended. We had their students to assist, the Principal and dining room teacher to delegate. Classmates that Mark had made and impression on.

We had donated food from Ultra Thin Pizza Shells.

We had an amazing photographer who donated her time and services, Dana Brown.


We had awesome entertainment by our friends, Matt & Devin.

We had the perfect guests.


Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos of my favorite part of the day but this was when we walked over the bridge and let off or tried to let off lanterns.

Most importantly we acknowledged Mark and we raised scholarship dollars for culinary students who want to further their education, career and life. It means a lot to me to give back in general but especially to where I came from, my high school vocational program and to pay it forward in Mark’s honor. I received Mark’s culinary scholarship so I could continue my higher education. I know how much it means for students to receive this type of money and support. With the help of wonderful friends and family the scholarship fund has grown. Myself and the Culinary Education Center are in the midst of creating an application process for potential recipients to apply to the Mark C. Fearon Culinary Scholarship Fund.

Please spread the word so we can continue to grow this fund and improve the culinary world one student and scholarship at a time.

Please click here to donate to the Mark C. Fearon Culinary Scholarship Fund

You say tomato I say tomahto…


Gardners and farmers put so much love, labor and time into growing precious produce for us common folk to eat.  The least we could do is honor their labor of love.  They truly deserve events to solely showcase their work aka the produce.


So… why not host a culinary event!  My all time favorite types of events…  This post is from 2014 August’s Tomato Tasting.  You can host a culinary event in any season- while focusing on tasting, complimenting the produce and farmer.


Contact us for info on culinary events, farm to table focused projects, agriculture dining, etc.  We LOVE anything focused around food!

An Azorian Adventure


Ponta Delgada | Capitol | Azores | Portugal 

People keep asking me about our trip to the Azores and anyone who knows me knows I am a terrible story teller. I leave out big and small details, typically focus on irrelevant negative points and just all around paint a poor picture.  So I thought I would write about this trip for people to have a better understanding of how it was.

Our trip to the Azores was an adventure, to say the least.  My boyfriend, T.J. , was invited there for an event called 10 Fest hosted by Escola De Formacao Turistica E Hoteleira aka a culinary | hospitality school in the Azores, specifically the island of Sao Miguel.  Since we have a long distance relationship, we try and piggy back on one another’s travels as often as possible.  My beau was a pretty big deal there.  He was there to represent the United States of America, by cooking an American meal with Azorian ingredients.  I had the luxury of working remote and getting to explore the island while he actually worked.


I was able to see everything I wanted and more…  I went hiking down and around volcanoes, jeep tours, food markets, tea plantations, saw old friends, made new friends, investigated aka ate at this bakery so Thermal Death Point 138 Productions could shoot a clip and last but not least… thermal pools!

Here are some of my adventures:


We were also privileged to attend some very memorable events.  One in which was an Azorian dinner, featuring Azorian cuisine and ingredients, many of which I have never experienced before.


Regardless of the beautiful scenery and interesting food, it was the people that made my trip so memorable.  The host and his wife of this event are the epitome of hospitable.  They had everything taken care of for us and even made the time to sit down and have dinner with us…  I made friends with one of the coolest cats I have ever bonded with, comedian, journalist, photographer, all around guru, adventurer, Karen Loftus aka Lofty.  Our JWU friends, super talented, power couple, the Makuch’s!  Check out this babe | pastry extraordinaire, Lauren Haas.  Anyone who knows chefs knows they can hang all night long.  Well that’s exactly what we did while we drank and laughed our asses off till the wee hours of the morning with the passionate | entertaining cousin duo,  restaurant owners of Bristo Bruut in Belgium, Michelin Star Chef Bruno & Bas Timperman.  I met a man who was also exploring solo on one of my tours  I instantly connected with him.  He must have been about 65+ years old and was the closest I will ever get to meeting the Dalai Lama.  He shared stories with me all day long about his six year journey of traveling the world alone.  He is indescribably dynamic .


A few things about this interesting place that I don’t think a lot of Americans (besides people in Fall River and Rhode Island) even know about it.  If you look at the map these islands are pretty much in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Since they are in the middle of the ocean | off the coast of Portugal, the weather is crazy. You can experience all four seasons in one day!


Lagoa Do Fogo

Last but not least the American dinner by Chef T.J. Delle Donne aka bf…  This dude cooked six courses for 90 people at one time… With the help of students. But still he was not familiar with the facility, ingredients, staff, etc.  Everything was off the charts amazing! The wine pairings blew my mind!  They were sponsored by Vinhos Sanguinhal.  I had the pleasure of dining with the vineyard owner, Ana Pereire Da Fonsesca Reis.  An amazingly inspiring lady; she runs her family owned vineyard, estates, distributes wine, runs the events, tourism/ tours and she has a newborn baby!  Whom to which she has been bringing to work with her since she came home from the hospital.

T.J. was pretty much famous there in the Azores with journalists and photog by his side all day errryday…so here are some pictures and videos about him, the event and his dinner | menu.

Photos by Lofty Photography &  Carlos Brummelo

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Course 1

Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Charred Florets, Osetra Caviar, Truffled Tomato, Tarragon Crouton

Course 2

Veloute of Asparagus and Textures, Slow Cooked Egg, Brioche, Petite Lettuces, Sao Jorge Froth

Course 3

Risotto of Azorean Lobster, Caramelized Fennel, Uniflores, Parsley Oil, Cracked Pepper and Crisp Focaccia

Course 4

Smoked Bacon Wrapped Azorean Wreckfish and Peas A La Nage


Strawberry Sphere, Kiwi Lime Salad

Course 5

Crisp Roulade of Azorean Veal, Persillade, Puree of Celery, Parsnip Soubise, Swiss Chard, Sea Salts and Glace de Viande

Course 6

Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Azorean Pineapple Fluid Gel, Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream, Assortment of Mints and Flowers



T.J. by Thermal Death Point 138 Productions

Ten Fest!  

Thanks to everyone who contributed to making this adventure unforgettable.


p.s. I had some of the BEST  cocktails ever…

Strawberry + Rhubarb Muffins

strawberries.jpg 2 Sedona

Sedona “helped” us pick strawberries for this recipe…

Makes 12 BIG muffins

the goods:

1 ½ cups               rhubarb (medium dice)

4 oz.                      butter (1 stick)

3 cups                   flour

1 Tbsp.                  baking powder

1 ¼ cups               sugar

½ tsp.                    salt

3                              eggs

5 oz.                       buttermilk

3 oz.                       vegetable oil

1 Tbsp.                  vanilla Extract

1 ½ cups               strawberries (medium dice)


Streusel topping:

4 oz.                       butter (1 stick)

½ cup                    sugar

2 cups                   flour

¼ tsp.                    cinnamon

Streusel topping steps:

  • Cream butter and sugar together using electric mixer until light and fluffy
  • Add the flour and cinnamon and mix to a rough crumb
  • Set aside

What to do:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Sauté the rhubarb in 1 oz butter until soft. Remove from heat and cool
  • Line the muffin tins with paper liners
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder
  • Cream together the sugar and remaining 3 oz of butter and salt on medium speed in mixer, scraping down the bowl periodically, until the mixture is smooth ad light in color, about 5 mins.
  • Wisk the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla together. Add to the butter, sugar mixture in tow to three additions, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until evenly moistened. Fold in the sautéed rhubarb and strawberries
  • Fill muffin tins evenly, three quarters full. Gently tap the filled tins to release any air bubbles.
  • Sprinkle the top of each muffins with Streusel topping
  • Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the center of muffin comes out clean
  • Cool the muffins in the tins for a few minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely


berry mess