Truly Local: Graze Restaurant in Little Silver

Graze in Little SilverChamon Laercio (aka Junior) worked for several years in the restaurant business before deciding he didn’t want to open his own restaurant.

“I intended to have a small catering place,” he tells Local Joan while sitting in a round booth at Graze, the eatery he opened last year in Little Silver. “I didn’t want to do this. It’s a tough business.”

After running a successful catering company for four years, he bought Zoe’s in 2015 and gradually began changing the menu to serve more locally sourced food and less of the standard and ubiquitous “Penne Vodka” type of dish, he explains.Little Silver Graze restaurant

“Most other places can’t tell you where their food came from,” says Junior, noting that New Jersey is catching up with the local food trend and after a difficult transition, he has a “clientele that understands” what he’s trying to do.

Junior’s new clientele is regional, not only local. Friday jazz nights are popular, he says, and Graze just opened for lunch as well as dinner.

My goal is to support local farmers and farmer’s markets

You can typically find Junior either cooking or talking to patrons about their experience.

Classically trained in French cooking but with Brazilian-born parents, Junior reflects his culinary heritage with dishes such as coxinhas: “Brazilian chicken croquettes with green tomato ketchup.” The “Bourbon Glazed Carrot Soup” garnished with micro-celery, is a staple, as are local harvest greens of the day and a four-cheese mac and cheese dish for which he makes not only the pasta, but also the cheese!

Glazed carrot soup at Graze in Little Silver

Bourbon glazed carrot soup is a delectable specialty of Graze’s kitchen.

Junior also does his own butchering and tries to use every part of the animal in his cooking. He points to a pasture raised pork chop.

“You can tell it’s good because it’s red, not white. People think pork is supposed to be white, like ‘the other white meat’ but it’s naturally a red meat.”

Not 100 percent of his food comes from local sources, though. The “toughest part” is that some foods are hard to get in the Garden State year round, although greenhouses make it possible to find, for example, heirloom tomatoes in winter.

“I do the best I can.”

He works with Harvest Drop, a local middleman, and uses about 30 different farmers in total. A born teacher, Junior says he hopes to advocate and raise awareness of the desirability of local food, both for its freshness and to support local business.

“My goal [in purchasing] is to support local farmers and farmer’s markets,” he says, adding that there are more than ever before. There are a great many local farms in New Jersey that people don’t realize exist.

Where did Junior get his interest in food? Both his parents have the cooking gene. His mother cooked for the Brazilian consulate at one time and his father owned a bakery in the U.S. and a dairy farm in Brazil.

His mother’s are “the only leftovers I’ll eat!”


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