By Sally Deering
Â Downtown Jersey City can now boast a new jewel in its crown, a gem of a restaurant glistening on the waterfront like a pearled onion garnishing a NY Strip.
Â Taphaus biergarten opened just a couple months ago at the eastern end of 2nd Street in Jersey City; you canâ€™t get any closer than this to one of the most beautiful views of the New York Skyline and particularly the Freedom Tower. No dark corners in this eatery; instead, its family style tables in a large dining area and bar, and a menu of classic comfort food reconstructed by Chef Chris Nirschel.
Chef Nirschel has been featured on several TV shows and he calls himself a â€œCulinary Bad Boyâ€. Heâ€™s worked in the food industry since he was 15; and since then, attended the French Culinary Institute in New York, and worked in several Manhattan restaurants, starting at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in Greenwich Village and then becoming executive chef at the Excelsior on the Upper West Side. Â A TV favorite, he competed on Season 7 of FOOD NETWORK STARS and has appeared on DR. OZ. He recently hosted HOUSE OF FOOD on MTV, teaching aspiring chefs the art of cooking.
These days, Chef Nirschel can be seen regularly at Taphaus, where he designed the menu featuring dishes like Asparagus Fries, Tap Haus Mac and Buffalo Rock Shrimp ($7-$13); bratwursts like the Spicy Jalapeno and Chimichurri Beef ($11-$12); sandwiches including the Chicken & Waffle, and Ribeye Steak & Cheese ($13 ea.); and entrees like the Pan Seared Salmon, Swordfish Skewers, and the Risotto Stuffed Pepper ($18-$22).
Now in his 30s, Chef Nirschelâ€™s star seems to be on the rise. He also got engaged, recently, to his fiancÃ© Dana Ahern and the couple plans to have their wedding reception at Taphaus.
Here are Chef Nirschelâ€™s Ten Ingredients:
RVO: Chef Nirschel, can you explain what makes you a â€œCulinary Bad Boyâ€?
CN: I like to be a versatile chef. I like music in the kitchen. I like to be in a good mood. I rap to my guys in the kitchen. Iâ€™m a culinary bad boy with a heart of gold.
RVO: Where did you grow up?
CN: My dad was in higher education, so we traveled a lot. I was born in Connecticut, lived there for a few years, Pennsylvania for a few years, Miami for eight years. I liked it. Â I was always a very social guy.
RVO: How did you get interested in cooking?
CN: I always connected with food. Iâ€™ll cook all day for my family, my friends. My uncle Daveyâ€™s Argentinian and he would teach me how to fish and grill. Heâ€™s my favorite uncle in the world. I have so many good memories sitting around the dinner table and talking about life and food.
RVO: What is your cooking style?
CN: I cook with my heart. Here, at Taphaus I have a lot of fun creating bar food with a nice little flair.Â I also create custom menus for special occasions, party menus.
RVO: At Taphaus, what are the signature dishes?
CN: There are so many options on the menu that youâ€™ll want to come back just to try different things. Thatâ€™s the goal. I want the guests to say I canâ€™t wait to try that next time. We want to be a new-age biergarten.Â Here we have the most amazing food, 48 drafts, and a great view.Â Itâ€™s a fun place to go, or throw a party.
RVO: To the people who eat your food, what message are you sending with every plate?
CN: I take a lot of pride in my food, the aesthetics of the plate, the portion, I want the customer to be satisfied. Getting their dollarsâ€™ worth, getting something special, their experience should be the best possible and I want to make sure of that. When you go out and eat, itâ€™s the full experience. I want it to be fun and yet professional so youâ€™ll come back.
RVO: You teach cooking classes for kids?
CN: Itâ€™s called Culinary Kids Rock! and I teach kids about food and cooking. I have an 11 year-old named Sam studying with me whoâ€™s coming in tomorrow. Iâ€™ve been cooking with Sam for about 8 months. He has a great palate and he comes up with great ideas.Â
Â RVO:Â You work with non-profits, too?
CN: I work with the New Jersey Food Bank and In Godâ€™s Love We Deliver. I try to reach out as much as I can. I canâ€™t donate money, but I can donate my time.
RVO:Â Youâ€™ve become a celebrity chef and make a lot of TV appearances. Did you enjoy doing the DR. OZ show?
CN: Dr. Oz wanted me to do a gourmet dish utilizing canned ingredients for under $5 per person. I made salmon cakes and a pineapple chutney. It was pretty cool.
Â RVO: Taphaus has only been open a couple months; howâ€™s business?
CN: Last week, we had ten parties; this week five, and every night weâ€™re filling the house.
Â Â If you go:
Two 2nd Street
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11 am-12 midnight
Fri & Sat, 11 am-2 am
Chef Chris Nirschel
Culinary Bad Boy.com; Culinarykidsrock.com