081814 via 45 walton kittrickLynn McKittrick and Linda Walton utilizing the kitchen of Via45  for their catering business, the Whistling Onion. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


081214 via45 front“What are we going to do? Where do we go from here?” Linda Walton asked her partner, Lynn McKittrick, after their Sea Bright restaurant, the Riverfront Café, was decimated by Hurricane Sandy.

“Together, we ran the business.” Walton said. “Lynn ran the restaurant while I ran a catering business,” the Whistling Onion, which had started in 1991 with McKittrick working out of a private kitchen, catering rooftop parties in New York.

Later, the Riverfront Café served as home to both the restaurant and private catering businesses.

After the storm, “the realization set in that I still had my business, while Lynn had nothing,” Walton said. “The right thing to do was making her a partner in the catering business.”

But where?

081814 waltonWalton discusses her catering business in the kitchen of Via 45. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

The partners intended initially to go back to Sea Bright, “but it wasn’t in the cards for us,” said McKittrick.

The rents “went wild,” Walton said.

Adding insult, the equipment they’d salvaged from the restaurant was stolen, they said.

Realizing that they “weren’t getting any help from the community,” Walton says she had what she calls her “kumbaya moment: We weren’t meant to go back.”

But where, then?

The pair had “casually” met Lauren Phillips and Claudette Herring, owners of Via45 on Broad Street in Red Bank, when they came to the Riverfront once for breakfast.

“After the storm, I told Linda, I’m going to call the girls at Via45,” McKittick said. “We’re in trouble, we need a place to cook.”

Herring and Philips didn’t hesitate.

“They handed us the keys and told us to come and go as we pleased,” McKittrick said.

Sharing the kitchen of a busy restaurant and making it work for the catering company as well took a little time and effort.

“It was a huge adjustment,” said Herring.

“Four women with their own agenda and the two teams had to learn to co-exist.” Phillips added. “The biggest piece of that is you have to take your ego and put it in the freezer, because that’s what it takes to have a partnership.”

But the chef’s worked around each other’s schedules, and figured out what was needed.

“You work it out,” Herring said. “Life is not that bad that you can’t work it out. We would hope that if we were in that situation, that they would help us out.”