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Chef Spotlight: NATALIE COLLEDGE of PLUM ON PARK and PLUM BAKERY in Montclair NJ

Chef Spotlight: NATALIE COLLEDGE of PLUM ON PARK and PLUM BAKERY in Montclair NJ

Natalie Colledge is the culinary director/owner of Plum on Park in Montclair, NJ. A 38-seat gem housed in a tiny refurbished diner, Plum serves American "bistro food with flair" that highlights fresh, organic ingredients whenever possible. A 3rd generation baker, Natalie also owns the nearby 100% gluten-free Plum Bakery, where she makes breads, bagels, doughnuts and savories that gluten-sensitive folks (and their allies) can enjoy safely and deliciously. She lives in Montclair with her husband.

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

I grew up in the family business, Styertowne Bakery, in Clifton, NJ, so have always been around food. I started cooking myself at around age 4.

Who were some of your career mentors?

As a little girl I watched Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet and the Galloping Gourmet. Baking came easily to me, cooking was my next love. I was always involved in the family business: baking, sales, or management. My father, who trained me, has the highest baking certification you can get in Germany. Martha Stewart's success really pulled it together for me. At around age 13-14, I couldn't wait to entertain, and I started buying dishes for when I would be older. For my birthday one year, my grandmother gave me a serious serving platter!

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

I've always been interested in all cuisines and cultures. I used to love to watch Wok with Yan and early Italian cooking shows. I'm first generation German-American, so that shows up in my cooking as well. I describe my cuisine as New American, and that means pretty much everything!

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

I don't have one thing that I focus on ... most restaurants in the area focus on a specific cuisine. Because I haven't defined myself in that way, I can do whatever I want. I do take a minimalist approach. Most of my dishes have 6 ingredients or less. Ingredient focused and health-conscious, less about heavy sauces and seasonings. Because of space limitations, everything has to come in fresh daily, so we buy all fresh, and cook to order.

What is your favorite meal or meals?

Korean food is my favorite because they bring you everything at once and you get to pick what you like and create your own dish. The dining experience is very integrated, everyone has to be present at the same time. It makes people engage in conversation over the meal. To me, eating is bringing people together, and I love the communal aspect to that kind of dining. You really get the chance to dig into your food and enjoy it.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

Plum on Park in Montclair, NJ, is an everyday eatery offering a multi-layered American menu specializing in market-driven dishes that highlight fresh, organic ingredients whenever possible. We're housed in a refurbished 1929 streetcar diner, and we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I also own Plum Bakery, which opened in 2015 in Montclair. It's 100% gluten free -- we make classic bakery items such as breads, bagels, doughnuts and savories. Because we recreate the bakery of childhood, we allow people with celiac/gluten sensitivity to enjoy the same foods their friends do, or they haven't been able to eat in years. They're the best products of their kind. People have literally cried after tasting a doughnut for the first time.

Chef Spotlight: NATALIE COLLEDGE of PLUM ON PARK and PLUM BAKERY in Montclair NJ

Plum on Park is located at 14 Park Street, Montclair, NJ 07042. Call: 973-744-7100

Plum Bakery is located at 179 Glenridge Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042. Call: 973-509-PLUM

For more information, visit their web site at http://www.plumonpark.com/.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Plum on Park




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