WESTFIELD, NJ -- CJ Reycraft, chef and owner of Amuse in Westfield, has become one of three American chefs -- and the first ever from New Jersey -- to be given the prestigious Prix au Chef de L’Avenir (Leading Chef of the Future) Award, by the International Academy of Gastronomy.
Founded in 1983, the International Academy of Gastronomy is an international network of men and women with a keen interest in gastronomy. Dr. Sevi Avigdor, who hosted the evening, called Amuse a "jewel" and explained that Reycraft had been chosen as Chef de L’Avenir over chefs in New York City, across America and the globe.
The celebratory dinner included English pea soup with tarragon pesto and brioche crouton; crepes with crabmeat, shrimp, andouille sausage; and choice of three main courses: duck confit with honshimiji mushrooms, haricot verts, fingerling potatoes, and roasted garlic aioli; Australian rack of lamb with hash brown potatoes with bordelaise sauce, and seared Hokkaido sea scallops with avocado and baby arugula. Among the desserts were profiteroles (salted caramel ice cream, almond praline, and chocolate ganache); banana pudding with hazelnut-chocolate crumbs and caramelized bananas; and white chocolate mousse with passion fruit sabayon and blackberry.
The event had a familial touch as Reycraft's mother and grandmother attended.
"He planned on going into accounting," said his proud mom, Holly Reycraft. "I knew that was never going to work. He was always helping me in the kitchen, breading cutlets and making things."
Reycraft, 33, opened Amuse, which serves classic French food with a modern twist, in January 2014. The Freehold, NJ, native trained at French Culinary Institute in New York and later worked at the elegant Chez Catherine in Westfield and at the Huntley Tavern in Summit before opening up his own restaurant. In October, the restaurant was reviewed in The New York Times. On May 2, Reycraft will do a cooking demonstraion on the highly rated Fox 5 "Good Day New York" program.