At the recent Boys and Girls Club fundraising dinner at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney (R-LD40) announced that he would prepare a dinner for three couples at his Wyckoff home.
The dinner was auctioned off as a prize to the high bidder at the charity event. Steve and Bonnie Holmes of Pompton Plains won the prize with a $4,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Club.
Rooney is an accomplished chef who won a contest on the Food Network television show “Chopped” in 2013.
Rooney praised the Holmes for their generous donation saying: “It is people such as Steve and Bonnie who do so much to help our community organizations without fanfare and they deserve our recognition and thanks.”
Rooney, a self-taught chef, said he will prepare a multi-course dinner for the Holmes’ and two other couples. The details of the meal will be worked out with the winners and will include cocktails at the bar in Rooney’s home dubbed Rusty’s Tavern. The assemblyman will provide all the food and drink and will be assisted by former Pequannock Mayor Dave Kohle, who will act as Rooney’s souse chef. Another former mayor, Christopher DePhillips of Wyckoff, will be the server and Rooney’s wife Hayley will be the hostess for the event.
“I think it will be a fun evening for everyone and a great opportunity to spend some time with outstanding people living in our area,” said Rooney.
The assemblyman says he has been cooking since he was 7 when he started experimenting with Thanksgiving leftovers and, to this day, cooks a majority of his family’s meals.
Besides working as a legislator, Rooney is a partner in a real estate holding company. He says: “Cooking for me is a creative outlet and a way to relax and get away from the pressures of business and politics.”
The assemblyman, a self described Food Network junkie, said he was unknowingly nominated for “Chopped” by his daughter Jordan. He made it through all the preliminary rounds of the show and appeared as one of the finalists. His winning dinner included a stir-fried sushi dish for his appetizer, ostrich pan-seared in blueberry wine as the entrée and for dessert a sweet and savory French toast, which he says is a version of breakfast he makes for his family. He won the $10,000 top prize awarded by the show and donated the money to charity.
“It was a great experience,” said Rooney, “but it has its drawbacks. Now everyone wants me to cook for them,” he joked. One of the benefits of the Chopped experience, noted the assemblyman, is that his notoriety as a chef has helped him raise more than $100,000 for non-profit organizations by doing what he likes best — cooking. The charities that have benefitted from Rooney’s culinary skill include a food pantry, schools, a parks and recreation foundation and houses of worship.