Food & Drink

Artistic Flair Extends to the Kitchen in Somerville Restaurant’s Gumbo Cook-Off

Les Floyd doffs his hat and thanks Verve owner Rick St. Pierre before accepting first prize in Sunday's 4th annual Gumbo Cook-Off. Proceeds benefit the Matheny School in Peapack. Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Longtime borough resident Les Floyd is best known as an artist, whose oils and acrylics were on display last weekend during a Black History Month reception at Verve Restaurant, Bistro & Lounge.

On Sunday, he returned to Verve to reveal that his artistic flair extends to the kitchen.

Floyd was declared the winner in the 4th annual Gumbo Cook-off contest sponsored by Verve on Sunday, coming out on top of three other gumbo chefs, earning him a bottle of wine, a gift card, but most importantly, bragging rights for the next year.

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A gracious winner, the virtuoso doffed his hat and thanked his fellow contestants and those who came to Verve to pay $10 to sample each of the gumbos, as well as side dishes prepared by the Verve kitchen.

The  cover charge will be donated to the Matheny School  in Peapack.

“I’ve been doing this for years; this is the first I won,” Floyd said, putting to rest two weeks of “smack” talk between him and the second place winner, Rich Reitman.

Floyd’s gumbo was a traditional recipe, a blend of crab, shrimp, spices and andouille, a spicy sausage.

Reitman’s entry was a recipe that also used andouille, which he blended with crawfish and three pounds of shredded alligator fillets that were packed in dry ice and shipped fresh from Louisiana.

Third place finisher Steve Catania chose lobster meat for his gumbo, while last year’s winner William Simonitts brewed up a “Gobbler” gumbo with turkey and spicy stuffing on the side.

Each of the contestants was required to deliver two gallons of their gumbo to Verve by early afternoon. The gumbos were served buffet-style with diners returning several times to sample each of the entries; the $10 cover also included one ticket each for all to vote, dropping their ticket in a bowl alongside each chafing to vote for their preferred gumbo.

The cook-off marked the midway point in Verve’s five-day Mardi Gras celebration, which culminates on “Fat Tuesday,” the day before the Lenten season begins.

Visitors to Verve are encouraged to bid on the Mardi-Gras style masks that decorate the walls, created by residents of the Matheny School, which treats young adults with severe physical and mental challenges. The masks will be sold to the highest bidders. Bids are accepted through Tuesday.

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Matheny School.

Gaudy beads and other bling are in abundance; specialty drinks will be available.

Further information is available by calling Verve at (908) 707-8655 or online at

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