Friday Foodstuffs 4.1.11: No April Fools – Chef Erik Weatherspool No Longer at Bistro 44

Just as the Toms River restaurant scene was getting their food-loving act together…

On the New Jersey Chowhound board, word got out that Bistro 44 had been sold, and that Chef Erik Weatherspool was no longer running the show. A year ago, Chef Erik had made a name for himself outside of Ocean County by winning on Food Network’s “Chopped” series. The restaurant proudly had a banner outside proclaiming this victory. Bistro 44 was the undisputed head of the restaurant class in Toms River, and local food enthusiasts simply adored it.

So what happened?

Well, let’s let Chef Erik speak for a moment. Here’s his repsonse to that same thread on Chowhound:

“So yes the bistro has sold, not closed. They will be open for lunch tues. 3/29/11, same staff. All the girls are staying. As for the kitchen well I haven’t been behind the stove in 7 months,. those of you who know me , know the passion that i put forth everytime I walked through those doors, Making this decision was not an easy one. It pains me to see how people that dont know the aspects of the business or even the drive a chef has to do what he loves, make a decision to actually be there for his family, no one knows what goes on behind close doors. I love my family, my wife my Mom, my children and yes MY BISTRO!!!! I want to say thank you to everyone that supported us over the past 5.5 years, you made MY dream come true! Thank you Toms River and Ocean county for your hospitality ! I will miss you!!!!!!! Please remember to give all restaurants a chance, change is good, never judge a book buy its cover — it may just be a pretty good read. Hey you never Know I may pop up in someones kitchen for a cameo ????????


Being a chef and trying to have a family life is tough work, if not almost impossible. The long hours take their toll. It sounds to me like Chef Erik is choosing family over the business, and as a father of two myself I cannot fault this decision. Lisa was able to talk to Chef Erik briefly this week, and we’re working on a possible interview, so stay turned for that in the near future.

And as for Bistro 44? They are still up and running, with new ownership but with the staff still essentially intact. If it’s true that Chef Erik had not been working in the kitchen for the last seven months, then the folks working the kitchen have been doing a fine job. The question now is: who is going to be leading the culinary direction of the restaurant from this point forward? We will certainly be keeping an eye on this one.  

This is the point where I’m supposed to say ‘Well, with the spring weather here, more food events are popping up on the calendar.’ The food events are doing their thing, but what’s up with the spring weather??? It’s downright chilly here! Thankfully, most of the events are taking place inside, so the elements be damned!

And what is going on this weekend? Tonight is a busy one, with the EarthShare Celebrates New Jersey! event at Laurita Winery in New Egypt, Georgian Court’s Dinner and an Artist – Raphael, the Fine Wine and Beer Festival at Indian Spring Country Club in Marlton, and it’s also the first session of the Atlantic City Beer Festival. Tonight is also the start of Jersey Shore Restaurant Week, which will run through April 10.

On Saturday, it’s A Study in Hops at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Maple Shade from 12PM to 5PM. There’s also Slow Food South Jersey Shore’s Guess What’s Coming to Dinner at Congress Hall in Cape May, the “Taste of the Golden Inn” Ultimate Wine & Spirits Sampling at the Golden Inn Resort Hotel in Avalon – and the annual Dandelion & Beer Festival at Merighi’s Savoy Inn in Vineland starting at 6PM.

If the AC Beer Fest doesn’t satisfy your taste for suds, there will be an Atlantic City Beerfest Brewers Brunch at W.L. Goodfellas and Co. in Galloway on Sunday. There will be two seatings: 10AM to 12PM and 1PM to 3PM. Go online to order your tickets in advance. Also on Sunday is the DECA Brunch at  Fischer’s Pelican Restaurant in Sewell, the Spring Fever Food & Wine Tasting at The Merion in Cinnaminson, and Ventnor’s Chef’s Night Out, which starts at 4PM and features 11 local restaurants. Call 609.929.1710 for details.

On the cooking class schedule this weekend:

Today: Best of Class: Italian-Inspired Dinner at Viking Cooking School in Atlantic City and SAVEUR Cooks: Decadent Chocolate Desserts at Sur La Table in Marlton.

Tomorrow: Best of Class: Chocolate at Viking Cooking School, and Flavors of India at Kitchen Kapers in Moorestown.

Sunday: An Inspired Passover Dinner with Culinary Author Jane Portnoy at Kitchen Kapers, SAVEUR Cooks: Sicilian Favorites at Sur La Table, and a Southern Italian Dinner Party at Viking Cooking School.

Blogging Out Hunger

This story on the Community Outreach Food Pantry in Brick echoes a number of other recent articles: despite the reports of an improving economy, more and more people are going to food pantries to help feed their families.

And in the news this week…

With the AC Beer Fest this weekend, here’s an article on local restaurants that have been showcasing craft beer. It’s encouraging to see more places offering better beer options.

New restaurants coming to Caesars and Harrah’s this summer!

For the third time, Camden is looking to put a late-night curfew on takeouts.

Who knew? A Cherry Hill resident won the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off this week and pocketed $25,000.

Mmm mmm…wait a minute: does Campbell’s less-sodium soups actually have less sodium? A class-action suit in federal court was given the OK to proceed.

Bistro di Marino is Collingswood is finishing up their large outdoor dining area, the biggest in town.

The Ocean Breeze Diner in Waretown is now Kristy’s. We liked the Ocean Breeze, so we will have to see is this is an improvement.

And a special birthday celebration will be happening on Sunday: the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden turns 35.

Have a great weekend!


6 thoughts on “Friday Foodstuffs 4.1.11: No April Fools – Chef Erik Weatherspool No Longer at Bistro 44

  1. I’m sad to see him sell that place! I know him through our local Chapter for American Culinary Federation!! Very talented chef who should be respected for taking some time with the family, because we all know how the restaurant business can sometimes have you working to live, rather than living to work ….even though we have the passion to do so!

    Good luck to him and hope to see him do another successful project in the future!

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