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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Ryland Inn

Scott Anderson, Raj Dixit, David Drake, and James Laird. What do these individuals have in common? Besides the fact that they are all extremely successful and talented chefs, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Dixit, Mr. Drake, and Mr. Laird all honed their skills at the Ryland Inn under the eminent New Jersey Chef – Craig Shelton, whose mentoring catalyzed these once young cooks’ present triumphs. 

         At the Ryland Inn, Shelton single-handedly transformed New Jersey into a dining mecca. Food lovers flocked to Whitehouse, NJ to sample what was considered to be “THE #1 TOP TABLE IN USA” by GQ Magazine. Fran Schumer, the former New York Times Restaurant, writes in his review of the Ryland Inn, “When does a restaurant rate extraordinary? When, after three or four hours, you don’t walk out of the dining room, you float”. “Country Kitchen, City Palate--The Ryland Inn Is an Exquisite Mix”. The Ryland Inn was the first New Jersey Restaurant to garner the title "extraordinary" from the New York Times (The only other NJ-based restaurant to be awarded this title was, and still is, Restaurant Nicholas).

         Shelton’s accolades should not come as surprises either. Like many aspiring chefs of his time, Craig Shelton trained intensively in Europe as a budding cook. Then, he further enhanced his skill-set by working for Chef David Bouley, a titan of the American dining scene. It also should be mentioned that Craig Shelton is a renaissance man.  An adroit painter, an avid farmer, and a pure genius, Mr. Shelton is multi-talented.

         Even though the Ryland Inn is most known for its time under Shelton’s management, the Inn has a rich and longstanding history. During America’s youth the Inn functioned as a stagecoach stop between New York and Philadelphia. Travelers were able to stay overnight and enjoy simple, fresh food in a quaint and bucolic setting.

         Fast-forward to 2007, and the unthinkable happened - the Ryland Inn closed (Well, to be honest, anytime a restaurant terminates it really should not come as a surprise. The restaurant business is as risky of a field as there is.) A series of electrical and structural complications amalgamated with the declining economy forced Chef Craig Shelton to close his flagship restaurant.

         Then in 2011, Landmark Hospitality bought the Ryland Inn and hired Anthony Bucco as the executive chef.

         This is where I come in. Chef Bucco and I worked together for over a year at Uproot Restaurant in Warren, New Jersey. When I got word that he was going to be the opening chef, I contacted him right away, and he graciously gave me the opportunity to be apart of the developmental processes and watch a fine dining restaurant grow from a construction site into an apex of gastronomy. The knowledge that I will gain from this experience is paramount to my future career in the hospitality industry.