{child_kicker}MY HAPPY PLACE{/child_kicker}

{child_flags:spotlight}Romanelli’s owner at home in the kitchen

{child_byline}VINCENT JACKSON

Staff Writer

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”My Happy Place” is a weekly Press series in which local notables take us on a tour of a favorite spot in their home.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — After putting in an average of 70 hours a week as the owner of Romanelli’s Garden Cafe, Drew Huggard likes to spend one of his lighter work days making a slow-cooked meal in his kitchen and reading in his living room.

Huggard’s “Happy Place” is his open-concept kitchen with its adjacent living room in his newly renovated 3,000-square-foot Smithville home.

“To me, a kitchen is just a place to unwind. It gives a sense of relaxation,” said Huggard, 28, who added he and his fiancee, Alyssa Camp, do a lot of cooking that takes all day. “One of the biggest things I like to cook is brisket.”

Huggard does not cook at his restaurant more than once a week.

Huggard and Camp have a 9-month-old baby named Andrew Jamison “A.J.” Huggard. When the baby drifts off to sleep for the night, Huggard will hang out and relax on the sofa in his living room and read a book or a magazine.

“There is nothing in there, just quietness,” said Huggard, who has his television in the baby’s playroom and not in the living room.

Huggard purchased a matching set of stainless black Samsung appliances — refrigerator, dishwasher and stove — for his kitchen at the end of the summer last year from the Sears that went out of business at the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing.

Huggard’s living room furniture came from Ashley Furniture in Northfield.

The new kitchen appliances, new furniture and new baby made their way into the home Huggard and Camp bought in June and that they moved into Labor Day weekend.

“It is quite a difference. The house was going into foreclosure,” said Huggard. “We stumbled upon this. We were looking at the house next door.”

Huggard said he did not like it at first. After walking through, he realized the couple could do something there.

They redid the ceiling, the drywall, the electrical, kitchen cabinets, put in the hardwood floors and the master bathroom, Huggard said.

They hired an electrician and a painter, but a great deal of the credit for the interior work belongs to Camp’s father, Huggard said.

“My father-in-law, I worked with him, probably not as much as he would have liked, but I did work with him,” Huggard said.

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