PHOTO: Chef Jonathan Jiminez
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS - There are many perks to being a member of the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club and one of the best that was recently added comes complete with orange hat and orange sneakers.
That’s Jonathan Jiminez, renowned chef, culinary creator extraordinaire, and new master of the kitchen at the Yacht Club’s dining room. Jiminez travels from his Pennsylvania home to prepare dinners five nights a week at the Yacht Club, along with the occasional Sunday Brunch and any other special dining events.
A chef for more than 20 years, Jiminez said his training has been rather eclectic, when you realize he went to Johnson and Wales College’s Culinary School in Rhode Island, studied at other restaurant schools, and also did a lot of on the job training under other chefs. But the affable, ever smiling Big Man in the Kitchen really credits his Grandma for the first and best lessons in food preparation. “She insisted that every dish be first filled with love.” After love, Jiminez laughs, Grandma’s cooking also featured what he laughingly refers to as “Brooklyn Spanish style,” which means an accent on rice, beans, stews, and all the family dishes everyone craves.
Nor is Jiminez new to Atlantic Highlands in his capacity as chef of this private club. He was a partner in Mariusez when that restaurant was on First Ave., but after it closed, he still always knew he wanted to be back when the opportunity allowed. When the Yacht Club sought him out, Jiminez had just purchased a house in Pennsylvania, but the offer was too good to turn down. Hence the commute.
While he does own and occasionally wear the traditional toq, the tall white hat many chefs wear, Jiminez’ personal favorite is his orange skull cap. But he only wears it when he’s wearing his orange sneakers. With his expansive crisp and clean full apron inbetween, Jiminez laughs that he looks like a piece of Candy Corn!
With the addition of Jiminez, dinners at the yacht Club have taken on new allure and meaning for club members, their guests, and members of the surrounding Yacht Clubs whose membership enables them to visit other clubs and enjoy their amenities, whether they travel by boat or car.
The menu varies every week, but it always offers fresh fruits and vegetables from local and Amish farm markets in Pennsylvania, seafood from both local purveyors including the Belford Coop, as well as fish markets the chef has dealt with for years. Entrees can be delectable cuts of beef perfectly prepared; pork chops big enough to enjoy leftovers the next day, pastas with Italian herbs and spices, chicken prepared in any one of many different ways and outstanding seafood, be it sole topped with shrimp, salmon or crabmeat, or whatever special the market tempts him with. He’s his own market shopper, another part of the job he loves, since it gives him the opportunity to watch out both for freshness and quality as well as economy to stay within his budget.
In addition to the usual three entrees offered each evening, there are always several appetizers from which to choose. Note: the coconut shrimp appetizer should definitely be shared or considered an entrée for the evening. Outstanding and overly generous in size.
Desserts are as light and airy as a sensational chocolate mousse or at decadent as a chocolate cake filled with strawberries and topped with whipped cream…the real thing, freshly made, certainly not your standard whipped topping.
Jiminez’ presentation at least equals, if not surpasses the excellence of the dish preparation itself, literally making every dinner a treat for the eye as well as the palate.
Still, with all this excellence for dinner or other event, it’s breakfasts that are Jiminez’ favorite to prepare. “There are just so many possibilities, and they’re all oh, so good,” he enthuses, lighting up with the idea of a new recipe.
The Yacht Club dining room is open from Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. with guests limited to members, their guests and members of other yacht clubs.
It’s worth wrangling an invitation from a friend to sample Jiminez’ culinary magic and see what happiness in the kitchen can mean when put before happy guests in the dining room.