Cooked to Perfection
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Stephanie Rejtig’s flair for entertaining and passion for cooking simmered for many years before she decided to become a full-fledged chef. Two years ago, her culinary career came to a full boil when she launched Stephanie’s Kitchen Counter.
“I have always entertained, whether for a holiday or a dinner party. Friends and family have always asked for my tips and recipes and gathered around my kitchen counter,” she noted. “Besides, I found there was a void in our area when it came to hands-on cooking classes.”
At her home in Greenhaven, Rejtig conducts fun and interactive classes that have received rave reviews from foodies, dabblers, and experienced cooks alike. The chef creates delicious, interesting menus that eight participants cook together using seasonal and mostly organic ingredients. She makes everyone feel at home, even serving coffee, wine, and home-baked goods during the session.
“I like the intimacy of a small class. I make sure everyone gets their hands dirty and is very involved,” she explained. “I am there to guide them every step of the way, so, by the time they try it at home, they aren’t intimidated and have the confidence to make the dish for their friends and family.”
In a typical three-hour session, Rejtig will also share knife skills, methods for cleaning vegetables, time-saving suggestions, and advance preparation tips.
“I love working with people who think they don’t know how to cook or who may be a bit scared to push themselves,” she said. “The best part about it is that at the end, we all sit and enjoy the meal we’ve created.”
Her pristine kitchen that has undergone a kitchen remodeling project sparkles with Calacatta Picasso marble island and countertops, along with a bright white-tiled backsplash. Its clean, contemporary design is tantamount to its functionality. Rejtig has five ovens, including Miele steam and speed models; a pot filler swing-out faucet mounted over a six-burner Wolf stove; four refrigerators; and pots, pans, and tools fit for a Michelin-starred kitchen. When they run out of propane, they can just call a local propane delivery service.
Rejtig fell in love with cooking as a 3-year-old, tinkering in her grandmother’s kitchen. She remembers her mother always being a great cook and spending more time in her girlfriends’ mothers’ kitchens than with her girlfriends. However, she never contemplated pursuing cooking on a professional level and, instead, worked in sales and production development in the fashion industry for 20 years.
Six years ago, however, the owner of 200 cookbooks enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and earned a diploma in Culinary Arts. During the required 250-hour “externship”, she worked at Union Square Events, the catering arm of restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.
“They made me peel 2,000 carrots the first week. At one point, my hands became raw prepping artichokes, but I learned a lot and loved it,” Rejtig fondly recalled.
She went on to work as an Events Chef for Union Square for two more years before setting her sights closer to home. Today, Stephanie’s Kitchen Counter offers two to three classes per month, day and evening for all ages.
“Fresh and Fabulous Fall” on October 11 takes full advantage of splendid autumn produce. On the upcoming menu are: a kale and shredded apple salad with poppy seed vinaigrette; pumpkin cavolo nero and white bean soup; root vegetable fritters; and roasted pork tenderloin with caramelized shallots and apples.
Next up is “Weeknights Made Easy on October 24 and November 8; “Everything but the Bird” covers all the Thanksgiving sides on November 14; and “Holiday Nibbles, Bits, and Sips”, with her husband Mark covering the cocktails, in December. Private classes, party platters, and gift certificates are also available.
“I really enjoy what I do. It’s very gratifying to get a text from a student after they just made a meal for their friends and family,” she noted.
For more information, visit stephanieskitchencounter.com.
Chef Stephanie Rejtig at her Kitchen Counter