Recipes for recovery

Alumna and daughter publish benefit cookbook

Cheryl Pembridge Larkin ’73 and daughter Kate Kurelja show off Chef David Burke’s Grilled Salmon with Grilled Vegetables and Tomato Vinaigrette.
Cheryl Pembridge Larkin ’73 and daughter Kate Kurelja show off Chef David Burke’s Grilled Salmon with Grilled Vegetables and Tomato Vinaigrette.

Three days after Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey’s coast in October 2012, Cheryl Pembridge Larkin ’73 and her husband, John, drove from their inland home in Basking Ridge to check on their summer cottage in Point Pleasant Beach. Power outages throughout the state had cut off most news reports, but the Larkins had heard Governor Chris Christie speaking on their car radio.

“The shore as we know it is gone,” he said.

When they reached the coast, the Larkins were relieved to find their cottage intact, but shocked at the surrounding wreckage.

“Broken, crumpled buildings stood or half stood,” Larkin recalls. “Some were washed away. Sand dunes had been re-created in the streets. Wires were down. Garbage and debris were scattered everywhere. The boardwalk was gone.”

Larkin asked herself, “What do you do to help?”

She soon found her answer. Larkin and her daughter Kate Kurelja, both dedicated foodies, had been talking about collaborating on a cookbook. In January 2013 they were in Kate’s kitchen discussing the possibilities when “the obvious hit us,” Larkin recalls. “Let’s do a cookbook to raise funds for Sandy relief.”

In September, the pair published Savoring the Shore, a culinary celebration of the Jersey shore that serves up more than 100 recipes from home cooks and celebrity chefs. All proceeds will benefit the hurricane recovery efforts.

Larkin and Kurelja, both marketing professionals, combined traditional marketing and social media networking to solicit recipes and drum up support. They created a food blog and a Facebook page, and recruited Kate’s sister Sarah to help spread the word. On Facebook, they previewed recipes from their book and also shared news updates on the recovery efforts. They also connected with Karen Schnitzspahn, author of Jersey Shore Food History: Victorian Feasts to Boardwalk Treats. Schnitzspahn contributed a recipe, Fried Oysters on Toast, and became their mentor.

Contributors included friends, charitable organizations, and renowned chefs such as Eric LeVine, owner of Morris Tap & Grill in Randolph, N.J., and a “Chopped” champion; restaurateur David Burke, a two-time contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters”; and Michel Richard, a James Beard Foundation Award winner who also did a sketch and a painting for the book.

At a charity event, the authors ran into “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio—”the culinary world’s equivalent to encountering Paul McCartney,” Larkin says. Colicchio later contributed his grandmother’s chicken soup recipe to the cookbook.

The book features many seafood recipes but also great variety in such dishes as Black Thai, a vegetarian entrée; Grilled Sweet Jersey Corn Chowder; and Choco Avo Mousse, a combination of avocado, carob and almond butter.

Today, the Jersey shore is rebounding, but a full recovery could take years.

“There are still families who are opening the doors of their houses for the first time—if they are lucky enough to have doors—and dealing with the devastation,” Larkin told the Quarterly in June. That same month saw the re-opening of one of Larkin’s favorite places, Mueller’s Bakery, in Bay Head, which had been gutted by the storm. The owners contributed their recipe for sour cream coffee cake.

Larkin hopes her cookbook will do its modest part to help the relief effort while also nurturing pride in the area’s rich culinary heritage. “In the heart of shore lovers’ memories and traditions,” she says, “comes the strength to rebuild.”

The cookbook can be ordered on the authors’ blog,