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Newark Chef is a Stone’s Throw from Ultimate Cooking Challenge


Robbie Jester, executive chef of the Stone Balloon Ale House on Main Street continues to make a name for himself in the kitchen and on the Food Network. In November, Jester was eliminated in the final round of “Guy’s Grocery Games,” an hour-long program hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri that challenges a chef’s capacity to think, move, shop and cook on their feet.

But even though Jester did not win that time, he is back for redemption. In fact, he has been invited back to compete on April 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

He has been grateful for the exposure and experience because his ultimate goal is to be picked for “Top Chef.”

“I have gone to casting calls two years in a row—one in Brooklyn, then to one at Craft, owned by Tom Colicchio, head judge of ‘Top Chef,’” says Jester. He says he got some callbacks but was never picked. Jester says he admires all the chefs that have competed on “Top Chef.” “They are the cream of the crop and are the most talented of any chefs that I have seen on TV,” he says.

His hopes were elevated last year when he did receive a call from “Top Chef,” alerting him that someone had dropped out. He never heard back from them, but the same day, someone from “Guy’s Grocery Games” called. “They asked me how I would feel about being on their show,” says Jester.

He says the experience and exposure has also helped him bring new life to the menu at Stone Balloon Ale House, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in January (the restaurant also hosted a 44th birthday celebration for the original Stone Balloon, which opened its doors in February 1972).

“I like to take the technique and ingredients seriously but not myself,” says Jester, who makes his own Doritos and has transformed his mom’s turkey à la king into squab à la king. 

Robbie Jester
(Photo provided by Stone Balloon Ale House)

From left to right: Robbie’s Ribeye Tartare and Root Beer Chipotle BBQ Short Rib
(Photos provided by Stone Balloon Ale House)

Jester says the Ale House has many exciting dining events on tap. “We have a chef’s dinner series planned once a month, except for June and July, and we changed the menu on March 8.”

He says to be on the look out for hard cider sriracha-fried turkey wings and pot roast-style short ribs to heat up the appetizer menu and a delicious new dessert item called the velvet hammer: a red velvet cake waffle stacked with cream cheese icing, vanilla ice cream and powdered sugar. Any fan of “Top Chef” knows that baking skills are highly prized and are often hard to come by.

Perhaps one day soon, Jester will finally get the call he’s always been waiting for. 

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