It’s no secret that the best way to prepare a proper Thanksgiving Feast is to pick the brain of the Executive Chef. That is, if you are lucky enough to know an Executive Chef or someone who does. It has been a signature move of mine for years to grab a little nugget of culinary treat to introduce to the family on this joyous holiday.

If you are lucky enough to know The Grand Summit Hotel’s Executive Chef Charles Burke, you’re in for a treat. The food and beverage program at the venerable hotel has been the centerpiece of their reputation since opening in 1929, and the hotel is lucky to have Burke at the helm for the past 19 years. During that time he has prepared a sumptuous feast for countless weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and other large social and corporate events.

“My philosophy is simple,” says Burke. “Listen to the guest, and give them what they want. That philosophy has served me well in this business. You can make the most creative dish imaginable, but if it’s not something that the guest likes, you’ve not done your job.”

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A New Jersey native, Chuck was first introduced to the restaurant business at the age of twelve. He washed dishes standing on a milk crate at the restaurant where his mother and grandmother worked, Libretti's in Orange. He attended college in pursuit of a degree in civil engineering, but was lured back to the restaurant business; and graduated from the New York Restaurant School in 1985.

One of his instructors lined him up with his first job at One Fifth Avenue. He spent five years at various New York City restaurants, but wanted to learn the hotel industry. Back in Jersey, Chuck worked under the direction of Executive Chef Louis Spost at the Short Hills Hilton, a AAA 5 Diamond Award-winner for both lodging and the Dining Room Restaurant. There he quickly learned hotel restaurant operations, the challenge of room service and developed an interest in the high volume and fast pace of the catering department. With a desire for large volume operations, Chuck was invited to join the opening team of the Ocean Place Hilton in Long Branch to work with Executive Chef Tony Sindaco. Burke gained a wealth of experience there since they had both a ballroom and an exhibition hall for events.

A few years later, an opportunity to work under the tutelage of Chef Steve Jilleba, CMC, CCE, AAC at the Des Moines Club took Chuck and his wife to live in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Chef Burke returned to New Jersey and the Grand Summit Hotel in 1998. In 2000, Chef Sindaco invited Chuck to assist him as guest chef at the James Beard House, truly a memorable experience. 

Our visit with Chef Burke ends with a delicious recipe for America’s holiday:

Apple Almond Stuffing

4 ounce onions, diced small
4 ounce celery, diced small
2 each granny smith apple, peeled, diced small
2 cups egg bread, diced small
4 ounces butter
6 ounces turkey stock
4 tablespoons parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup toasted almonds
2 each egg
Salt & pepper to taste

- Melt butter in sauté pan. Sauté onions and celery about two minutes. Remove from heat.

- In mixing bowl combine diced bread, cooked onions, celery, apples, turkey stock, toasted almonds, parsley, thyme, egg, salt & pepper.

- Place in baking pan and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends, family, and very valuable and appreciated guests and customers from the staff at The Grand Summit Hotel.