Periodically, MyJerseyShore.com puts the spotlight on an individual who helps make the Jersey Shore the special place it is.
You’ll see interviews with musicians, casino entertainers, business people, chefs and other Jersey Shore celebrities.
Our latest interview is with Mia Chiarella, the chef and manager of Gia Ristorante, which is owned by her parents Beth and Vincent Chiarella. Gia recently moved to their new location at 7400 Ocean Avenue in Wildwood Crest, N.J. and features traditionally prepared dishes in a warm Tuscan setting.
1. Who is the restaurant named for? My restaurant is named after my later sister Gia who passed away in December of 1998. We wanted to keep her name alive, and we found the best way to do it! I get to go to work every day and it’s like she’s there all the time. I couldn’t find a better name for our restaurant and I am so very blessed that her name still lives on.
2. Why did you want to become a chef? I have always had a passion for cooking. I used to watch my dad (who is also a chef) cook in the kitchen and I was just drawn to his every move. I knew one day I would become a chef! It wasn’t until taking my finals at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, when I called my dad and said “I’m enrolling in culinary school!” It was the best decision I ever made, and I don’t just like my job – I LOVE IT!
3. Where did you go to culinary school? I went to the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing, N.J.
4. If you weren’t a chef what would you be doing? I would probably be doing something with fitness or modeling. Or maybe I’d be personal-training high-end clients.
5. What is your personal signature dish? My personal signature dish is Chilean sea bass in a tomato basil fume with green beans, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. It is served over garlic mashed potatoes!
6. What is the key to cooking a steak? The key to cooking a steak is to buy the best meat possible. You should do as little possible to it besides season it. The meat should stand for itself. Many people turn the steak too many times or poke and prod at it when in reality the less you do the better!
7. Where do most of your summer customers come from? They are mainly from New York and New Jersey. We also get a lot of other customers from very diverse cities. I love the summer customers because it’s great to see new faces and meet them as well.
8. How do you stay in such good shape when you are around food all day? I’m really into fitness and working out (maybe a little too much!). It is a staple in my everyday life. The key to staying in good shape is to know your limits and indulge in moderation. I don’t let the food make me, I make the food!
9. Who benefits from your Gifts From Gia charity? The program benefits the kids who go in and out of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cooper Hospital in Camden. The gifts are given out all year long so it’s not just for the Christmas season. I was a kid when my sister was at Cooper Hospital, and I knew what it was like to live such heartache. To give back to kids, and put a smile on their face was the key to starting the Gifts From Gia program. We wanted to make kids feel the love they deserve in such a time of need.
Gia’s Web site is www.giawildwoodcrest.com. For reservations call 609-729-2802.