Brookdale alumnus Drew Araneo, of Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, competed in a throwdown against Food Network’s celebrity chef Bobby Flay that drew more than 2,000 spectators to Keyport Waterfront Park on June 27.
Araneo graduated from Brookdale’s culinary program in May 2000 and received the Brookdale Cordon Blue award recognizing him as the number one overall student.
The savory smells of New Orleans-style fare whet the appetites of the audience as each chef prepared his own unique recipe, competing for the bragging rights of creating the best Voodoo Shrimp, Araneo’s signature dish.
As the two chefs went to work, Flay seemed to have an advantage because his side of the stage had a variety of ingredients, while Araneo’s side was bare. When Araneo joked that Flay might win for that reason, the enthusiastic audience booed at the possibility of Flay taking the title. Cheers from the crowd and a variety of signs including one saying “Do that Voodoo Drew” showed that Drew was clearly the favorite.
The chefs’ plates were sampled and critiqued by a panel of celebrity judges that included singer Gloria Gaynor, former NBA player Darryl Dawkins, and Saveur magazine editor James Oseland. After sampling and deliberating with each other, the judges unanimously declared Araneo’s dish the winner.
The event was sponsored by New Jersey’s Stronger than the Storm tourism campaign and shined a spotlight on the recovery since Super Storm Sandy. Araneo, whose restaurant was destroyed in the storm, was one of many affected business owners in Keyport and other cities along the Jersey Shore. The damage from the storm forced Araneo to relocate the popular Bistro to a new location in Keyport. The restaurant reopened in March.
Check out the photo gallery to see more pictures from the event.