Mercato Market

Former Flock of Seagulls guitarist Eddie Berner, above, will bring his Rockin’ Road Grill to the new Mercato Market at Atlantic City Race Course this weekend.

Years before guitarist Eddie Berner would travel the world with the iconic ’80s rock group Flock of Seagulls, he already knew that music and food could go together even better than his band’s sound and now-infamous hairstyles.

“I had an ‘a-ha’ moment when I was a kid and I needed to buy a guitar and I needed money,” recalls Berner, who lives in Mount Laurel, Burlington County. “I was 12 and I got a job in a pizza place and made pizzas. I just really enjoyed doing it. Once I got involved with food, that was pretty much it … by 17, I was running a restaurant in Burlington, went to college and decided to go to culinary school.”

Berner, also a graduate of The Restaurant School of Philadelphia, would go on not only to join Flock of Seagulls and tour with the band for more than 10 years, but also to find success as a restaurant chef. After an injury on the job three years ago, Berner was inspired to combine the two passions.

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“I had a lot of time to think about how I could keep working as a chef and keep working as a musician,” Berner says. “So during my rehab … I came up with an idea for a TV show where I traveled with a group of people to meet up with other famous musicians and interview them, hang out and ultimately find out what their favorite meal was. My job would be to recreate that for them.”

From there, the concept for the reality television show “Rockin’ Road Grill” was born. Working with business partners John Killion and Billy Terrell, Berner and the group purchased a tricked out RV, partnered with Food Network’s 2012 “world extreme chef” Terry French and hit the road, performing cooking demonstrations — and live music — at various music events and festivals.

On Saturday, the “Rockin’ Road Grill” bus will make its way to Atlantic City Race Course in Mays Landing to help kick off the grand opening of Mercado Market, a new outdoor shopping and entertainment destination that will include more than 800 vendors, gourmet food trucks and live music and performances every weekend through December.

“We’re not calling it a flea market, we’re calling it an outdoor market,” says Dina Guzzardo, who created the open-air market concept with partner Dirk DaCosta. “It’s an entertainment destination. We’re spending a lot of time and effort pumping up the entertainment end, and it’s all free.”

In addition to several hundred vendors selling everything from clothing to jewelry and artisan crafts, visitors can choose from some 20 gourmet food trucks as well as a beer garden.

“It’s a day to come that’s inexpensive for the family,” Guzzardo says. “Bet a horse, have a beer, watch a band … and every week it’s different.”

During opening weekend at the market, Berner will be performing with his band, performing live cooking demonstrations with French, signing autographs and filming for the new television show — which he hopes will find a network home very soon. For a recent episode, Berner cooked and performed alongside rapper and fellow reality star Vanilla Ice.

“We’re still moving forward aggressively to land the show,” Berner says. “But we continue to grow our business and more and more events are up and coming. In my mind, everything is moving according to plan.”

He is anxious to bring the show to the Atlantic City Race Course grounds, he says.

“The biggest thing is to put on a great show with my band, have a good draw, and do some filming for upcoming TV episodes as well,” Berner says. “We’re there to kick this thing into high gear.”

The market will be broken down into districts, including arts and crafts, antiques and collectibles and general merchandise such as handmade silver and leather jewelry, clothing and accessories. It’s an eclectic mix, Guzzardo says, and she and DaCosta plan to work with the vendors, bringing in marketing experts to assist them with sales.

For Guzzardo, who lives in Galloway Township, seeing commercials for the market on television and hearing ads on the radio has been nothing short of surreal.

“There’s a buzz,” Guzzardo says. “It’s exciting for everybody. I haven’t slept in months. It absolutely blows our minds. We recorded ‘The Blacklist’ (on NBC) last night and our commercial came on, and we were like, ‘Oh my God, this is real.’”

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