Christine Nunn ’87, Executive Chef/Restaurateur
Fair Lawn, NJ native Christine Nunn is a big fan of picnics, so much so she adopted the moniker for several businesses during her successful career in the food industry. As executive chef at both the farm-to-table concept Grange in Westwood, NJ and Picnic on the Square in Ridgewood, NJ, she’s plenty busy. That’s just fine with Christine because she’s making a living doing something she truly loves.
Like so many aspiring culinarians, Christine was entranced by Julia Child’s public television programs. “When I was a girl, my mother would cook a Julia Child recipe every day. We would watch Julia cook something on her PBS show one day and my mom would cook it the next day. The very first thing I cooked came from Julia’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” said Christine. The palate she developed at an early age would serve her well in the future.
After graduating from Montclair State in 1986, Christine got a job as the society editor of the Ridgewood News and later moved on to be the restaurant critic for the Bergen Record. She even began to cater her own events with great success. That’s when she decided, at the age of 37, that taking a break from the business world and attending the CIA might be a good idea.
Was it ever! “Because I made the change and chose the CIA, all of these good things are happening,” Christine said. “I loved going to the CIA—it was the time of my life, and it’s offered me the time of my life until I retire!” She graduated, catered parties at Fashion Week in Manhattan and the British Mission to the United Nations, then took a gamble by starting her own catering company, Picnic Catering. Things just took off from there.
Picnic Catering led to the highly acclaimed Picnic Restaurant. Christine’s approach is simple: custom-designed menus coupled with the perfect execution of the best ingredients available.
The economic downturn unfortunately affected Picnic Restaurant, which Christine closed in December 2012. She continued catering while assuming the role of executive chef at Grange in March 2013. Christine also wrote her first cookbook, The Preppy Cookbook: Classic Recipes for the Modern Prep, released that August. Her goal in the book is “to keep the retro recipes alive ‘n’ kickin’,” she says. “I wanted to blend humor with tried-and-true recipes, peppered with my own signature dishes.” Fellow chef and television personality Sara Moulton ’77 provided the forward to the book.
Fans of the original Picnic Restaurant rejoiced at the opening of Christine’s new eatery, Picnic on the Square. She brought back her team old team including the head waitress, host, and sous chef and debuted the restaurant in November 2014.
Christine is also a sommelier, lectures extensively, and teaches classes on French, Italian, and regional American cuisine. Clearly Christine Nunn has a picnic basket full of skills and interests.