zeet-peabody-1Zeet Peabody, executive chef at the new JBJ Soul Kitchen, which features crisp design inside and a vegetable and herb garden out front. (Click to enlarge)


soul-kitchen1The star power at Wednesday’s opening of the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank belonged, of course, to the restaurant’s main sponsor, Jon Bon Jovi.

But while the the telegenic pop star may continue to volunteer his time washing dishes at the Monmouth Street pay-what-you-can eatery, patrons will be on intimate terms with Zeet Peabody, the restaurant’s executive chef.

Along with his kitchen crew and wait staff, he’s the one who’ll be there most of the time. More importantly, he’s be the one who’ll decide what goes onto the plates, and how those dishes will elevate the eatery to destination status.

After all, this is “not a soup kitchen,” Bon Jovi said at the opening. With its knife-sharp appearance, it doesn’t look like one. And the people behind it don’t want it to function as a dole for the down-and-out. The goal, they emphasized, is to make it a restaurant for all, no matter what’s in the customer’s wallet.

So amid the hubbub of the opening, redbankgreen isolated Peabody – who’s been a personal chef and consultant since closing his Bistro Zeeto in Atlantic Highlands a decade ago – for a few minutes to get his input. Here’s our quickie interview.

redbankgreen: As the executive chef, are you hoping to do anything special here?

Peabody: Well, we’re making this healthy and delicious food, and we’re nourishing their stomachs and their souls at the same time.

redbankgreen: Is the garden out front going to be a significant factor in what you do?

Peabody: We’ll use as much of the garden as we can, absolutely.

redbankgreen: Are you focusing on local ingredients?

Peabody: We are focusing on local. We’re also working with Whole Foods to have a relationship with local purveyors they use – typically, New Jersey farmers.

redbankgreen: Will you be buying from the Red Bank Farmers Market on Sundays?

Peabody: We will.

redbankgreen: In terms of dishes, will you be doing anything you haven’t done before with your other ventures?

Peabody: Oh, sure. There’s a brand new interest in vegan cooking, so we want to make sure we offer that. We want to make sure we offer children’s menus, because we want to encourage people to come with their families. And we want to have nutritional options to that, as opposed to stuffed and fried mozzarella sticks and things like that. Your kid will get a real piece of roasted chicken.

redbankgreen: Is there an educational component to what you’ll be doing?

Peabody: Oh, absolutely. Even the way the menu is set up. It’s set up as a prix-fixe, so right from the get-go, it’s portion control, and so we want to know that you get a healthy soup or a salad, and you have a choice of your main, you get a dessert that is not an over-the-top gloppy thing. So you have three courses, you’re nourished, you don’t feel stuffed. So completely underlining from the beginning, it’s about portion control as a way to deal with health issues that come afterward.