Chef Joseph Muldoon has been surrounded by good food since an early age. His mother, Roberta, a home economics teacher, instilled in him a passion for food well prepared.
Four years at Johnson and Wales gave him the technical skills he needed to be a professional chef and restaurateur.
His work in the industry included a stint as the chef at The Reserve at Bally's, a steakhouse with its own sense of style.
Muldoon has recently opened his own restaurant called Roberta's by Joe Muldoon.
A signature dish is one a chef claims as his own creation. For Muldoon, that dish is his Roberta's Scallop "Chowder."
Not a soup, but an entree composed of lemon and thyme sea scallops; creamed corn, truffled gaufrettes potatoes; and roasted littleneck clams, warm bacon and sherry vinaigrette are made separately, then assembled on the plate.
The dish has all of the components of a chowder-style soup, but with each ingredient made into a separate feature on the plate.
Chef Muldoon says that way, it provides the dinner with many different types of tastes and textures, and can be easily re-created in any kitchen.
We spoke to Muldoon about his influences, what he likes to eat and his life in the kitchen.
Which foods are your guilty pleasure?
Butter, salt and fat. When I was a chef at the steakhouse I would eat the prime rib fat that we cut off the rib almost every day. I would like to incorporate duck fat into more of my dishes now that I have it on hand more often since we confit our own duck legs. I also enjoy spreading lardo (pork fat) on bread whenever I encounter it.
What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
Del Posto in New York City. I love Italian and have always been a huge fan of (Philadelphia chef) Marc Vetri and Luke Palladino but when my fiancee took me to Mario Batali's restaurant for this experience it quickly rose to the top.
Which local chef is doing food you admire?
Aside from the previous question, I would say that my fiancee, Chef Jennifer Galligan, has continuously made me proud of her work and I have always been a fan of Mexican Cuisine and I promise you won't find better fare in Atlantic City than at Casa Taco and Tequila in the Tropicana.
Where does your family like to go eat?
My family likes to eat wherever I am at the time. Now its Roberta's and before then it was at the steakhouse in Bally's. The trend has been "come to me" if you want to spend time and have a good meal.
How would you describe your personal cooking style?
I would say that it is very simplistic. I know which finer ingredients can highlight dishes to take them over the top, but I always try to not manipulate food too much. It's all about the technique and time you want to put into each dish.
Do you watch culinary shows on TV?
No not really. Television has become a distant pastime and the last thing I would want to re-create is the day that I may or may not have had earlier.
Do you cook at home?
I realize that with two chefs living together some would assume that our cupboard is filled with a lot of fun ingredients but the reality is we try to get out as much as possible to enjoy an (unbiased) experience that we strive to deliver day in and day out. A lot of people are always very reluctant to have me try their cooking but I am always very grateful for their effort and always enjoy everything very much. I will never criticize others for something that they've put time and effort into making for me and 100 percent of the time it truly is a treat.
What's one kitchen ingredient any home cook shouldn't be without?
Good extra virgin olive oil. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Soup, salad, sandwich. Fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, bread. It accentuates anything in the food pyramid. It's just a matter of when to apply.
What about a kitchen gadget?
A blender is irreplaceable. There are things that cannot be re-created without this piece of equipment. Sure, there is the old-fashioned way to prepare some recipes without it but the texture and flavor won't be the same.
How about a cookbook?
Charlie Trotter's cookbooks were the only ones I've ever purchased, although at the time I was reading them, it was beyond my level of cooking. But his cutting-edge fusion and presentation were what inspired me to always strive to be a cut above the rest. His passing was very unfortunate but his influence and inspiration will last a lifetime for me.
I would enjoy the experience of making one (a cookbook) but I think I'd rather create everything myself for them to enjoy.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I remember the first thing I ever cooked for myself was a giant bowl of sauteed onions. I cut them, I sauteed them and flipped them in the pan just like I saw on TV. It probably was the nastiest thing for me to eat but I was proud. I don't think there was a definitive moment in my life that made me come to this realization but I always laugh to myself when I think of that giant bowl of onions.
What do you enjoy cooking the most?
My favorite thing to cook is whatever is asked of me. Working in the casino, I got a lot of requests for special things and whenever someone comes up with something they would like to try, I make that dish my favorite thing to cook. I always appreciated the challenge and really that is why I've always been so broad with the dishes I present on my menus. I don't like to be confined to any one cuisine.
What's your ultimate desert-island meal?
A: Freshly grilled fish. Whenever you watch someone that's stranded on an island that has to teach themselves to fish and they finally catch the fish and cook it, I always wish I was there with them, even if it means being stranded on a desert island.
What are your culinary influences?
My mother Roberta. My proudest moment was when I was able to tribute a restaurant named after her because of all of the hard work (of both my parents) had put into my well-being. She was a home-economics teacher so she instilled a passion for being in the kitchen and although I cannot stake my claim of when I came to a realization that I wanted to be a chef I assure everyone that this women had the most to do with it.
What do you see as new trends for 2014?
I feel as though breakfast items and breakfast recipes will begin to make a surge into every dining experience of the day. If I could eat a hash brown for lunch and dinner I would and I might just start offering them for those who agree with me. A good friend of mine, Jerry Eisenband, actually encouraged me to make a quiche pancake and I must say that there may be a growing popularity with that dish as well.
What do you think about the local restaurant scene?
I couldn't be happier where I am located in Northfield. With Atlantic City always staying competitive with their restaurants, I feel as though the appreciation for good food has grown because those who operate in and around the restaurants in Atlantic City are only bettering our restaurant scene as patrons are keeping us sharp.
Roberta's by Joe Muldoon
1205 Tilton Road Suite 12B, Northfield
Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays
to Saturdays; Dinner, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays to Saturdays (Winter hours until March)