5 Minutes with… Trinitas President & CEO Nancy DiLiegro

What was your path to a career in the healthcare industry?

My high school experiences as a volunteer and as a hospital candy striper, as well as my dad and other family members who were pharmacists. These experiences gave me the opportunity to observe and interact with many healthcare professionals. Ultimately, I wanted a career and profession that was purposeful.

What are some of the things that Trinitas offers the community that you feel are underutilized?

Our OB/GYN Services provides a full spectrum of family planning services with recently updated private birthing suites. Trinitas won numerous awards in 2022 as a leader in obstetrics and gynecology, including being one of only five hospitals to achieve the Labor and Delivery Excellence Award for seven years in a row. We are also very proud of our THRIVE program, which not only slows the progression of kidney disease, but also educates patients on treatment options, and delivers support services for those facing kidney disease.

In what specific ways do you see Trinitas flourishing within the RWJBarnabas Health system?

It will continue to strengthen and align with the system’s “One System, One Family for Quality” goal with positive outcomes, enhance patient satisfaction, focus on employee engagement and focus on efficiency and finances. It will also strengthen our 12 Centers of Excellence with an increased number of doctors and specialized staff and updated systems and machines to provide the best-in-class high-quality care. Being part of RWJB Health will also enhance access to outpatient services. And we are now part of a world-class academic health system, with Rutgers.

What does it mean to be an HRO?

HRO stands for High Reliability Organization. In our case, it means combining the most efficient people, processes, protocols, policies, structures, technologies and environment to achieve top-tier outcomes and deliver the highest quality care—and the safest experience—to our patients, communities and workforce.

How would you like to see Trinitas strengthen its connection to the surrounding community?

Staying connected with local elected officials and making sure to invest in the greater Elizabeth community, as well as partnering with local non-profit organizations through social-impact and community investments. We’ll continue our commitment to the vulnerable populations in our community, including addressing food insecurity. We’re working to develop food pantry services that will be available to those in need, especially our Charity Care population. Finally, we will always look for innovative ways to educate the community on preventative care and screenings so patients have better knowledge of how to effectively utilize healthcare for their benefits.

A Tribute to Gary S. Horan

In the following pages, EDGE salutes Gary S. Horan, who for more than two decades led Trinitas Regional Medical Center through two mergers and a global pandemic with grace, humor and a level of commitment and expertise that have become the industry standard. He announced his retirement in 2023 and leaves Trinitas—now part of the RWJBarnabas Health System—in the capable hands of the hospital’s new President and CEO, Nancy DiLiegro. Gary’s legacy is the unique team environment that distinguishes Trinitas in both the community and business of healthcare.

We begin with some thoughts from the people who knew him best, both personally and professionally…

What a wonderful and eventful ride you and I have had together here at Trinitas. It all began over 21 years ago in an interview process and, together, we have seen Trinitas grow into the outstanding Medical Center it is today. You have created a wonderful legacy and I am so pleased that your name will forever be highlighted in our Emergency Department. Enjoy your richly deserved retirement with Arlene and your wonderful family! Fondly, from your brother from another mother.

—Victor Richel, Trinitas Chairman of the Board

 You have been the champion of all associated with the hospital during some of the most stressful years for medical care.

—Andrea Richel

 You have been the champion of all associated with the hospital during some of the most stressful years for medical care.

—Andrea Richel

 We are grateful for Gary’s vision and abiding commitment to the community, particularly during the unprecedented challenges we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also a critical guiding force for the recent successful integration of Trinitas into the RWJBH family in 2021.

— Mark E. Manigan, President and CEO, RWJBarnabas Health


It goes without saying that all of us are grateful for your steady leadership of Trinitas. To me, your friendship and your guidance over these many years are equally important. I’ll always remember how you nurtured my career by setting the highest of expectations. And I’m not just talking about that paperweight on your desk…you know, the one with the saying: “If you say you can’t do it, you’re right. YOU can’t do it.” Part of what makes you an effective leader is your use of humor and your ready laugh. Who knew that a bad joke could be such a vital part of leadership?

—Doug Harris, Retired Trinitas Marketing & Public Relations VP, Former Publisher, EDGE magazine

 The plaque on your desk read, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.” Under your great vision and leadership, you established Trinitas Regional Medical Center across the region, the state and beyond as a can-do hospital with 12 Centers of Excellence. You advanced the hospital through two major mergers, received “Best Place to Work in New Jersey” awards (not once but six times) and developed a workforce that was proud and honored to work hard with one another and our patients.

—Glenn Nacion, Trinitas Chief Human Resources Officer


You were firm but fair. You demanded excellence. You had an open-door policy. You listened with intentionality. You made us laugh. You placed our patients and our staff at the center of every decision.

—John D’Angelo, Trinitas Chief Medical Officer

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” A quote from William James and he very well may have been speaking of your legacy. Trinitas is a special place—committed, compassionate people working toward a common mission, and you have been at the center, directing that purpose and spirit.

—Lisa Dressner, Trinitas VP of Behavioral Health

I remember the first time we met. You were so approachable, kind and welcoming. It was so apparent that you were engaged and invested not only in organizational success but my individual growth both professionally and personally. There are simply not enough words to describe how inspirational you have been. Your support, guidance, mentorship, and warm smile has lifted my spirits through the toughest of times. Your ability to lead with compassion courage and humility is simply phenomenal. But what I will remember most is the nurturing environment you created—grounded in mutual respect and trust.

—Muniba Naqi, MD


We only just got to know each other but I am so very grateful for the opportunity to work at Trinitas. In just two short months, it’s evident why so many employees have been here for 5-10-15-over 20 years. People stay where they feel welcome, heard and guided through good and bad times…and you did that. You developed something great here and I am honored to witness just a little piece of your amazing legacy.

—Maria Auciello, Trinitas Marketing Assistant VP

 We have been through so much together: Hurricane Sandy, COVID and myriad other emergencies, large and small. I chuckle every time I think of when you would say, “It isn’t a disaster unless Phil’s around,” with its double meaning. You are the best boss I have worked for and I consider you not only a colleague and friend, but also a mentor and the leader I strive to be.

—Phil Solomon, Trinitas Emergency Preparedness Coordinator


I have had only two full time jobs in my life, the Summit Police Department and Trinitas. I have worked under the tenure of six chiefs of police and yourself. I can honestly say you were my best boss ever. From my first day on you welcomed me in the board room and made me feel included in every Trinitas event. You have a leadership style that is like no other. You motivate your staff intrinsically to want to do their best. Your staff simply wants to give their all so they do not disappoint you.

—John Dougherty, Retired Trinitas Director of Security


From the creation of Trinitas to your incredible work during the pandemic—and then preparation for Trinitas incorporation into the Barnabas system—your achievements have been monumental for this institution. I’ll never forget seeing you each morning during the pandemic in the War Room. Those were harrowing times, but you steered through them perfectly.

—Michael Zaboski MD


I have seen many different examples of leadership and have had the opportunity to be a leader myself. I tell you this so that you know that when I say that you are one of the finest leaders I have had the privilege to work for, it is not idle chatter. Although there were many levels of management between you and me, I always felt that you were approachable. I was and am most impressed by your tradition of annual town meetings, where people can ask you anything. Very few leaders are willing to be that open and transparent. I also greatly appreciate your extensive efforts to keep us all informed on a daily basis during the early months of the Covid epidemic. It helped us all feel like we were in this together. You are a wonderful communicator.

— Kathy Howie, Behavioral Health & Psychiatry

 I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with you and learn from the wealth of knowledge and experience that you have shared with us. You will be greatly missed.

—Karim Khimani, MD

 I like to believe we hit it off the very first time we met before I officially became a Trinitasian, when I was freelancing for EDGE and was asked to write the piece about the magical working relationship you share with Vic. You both were so warm and welcoming that at that moment I knew Trinitas was a special place. That was back in 2017. It wasn’t until January 2018 that I joined your team, but since then, I’ve lost track of how many sideways glances we’ve exchanged and how many times you made me laugh to the point of tears. In your presence, everything was fun. You always made me feel welcome and valued, and I’m forever changed because of it. Thank you for being you and for giving me an opportunity to be me in a setting in which I never thought I’d experience success. You are a special person. I will never forget you. Ever.

—Yolanda Fleming, Trinitas Director Marketing & Communications

 You led us through many transitions, and we always came out on top. Your leadership during our first pandemic was inspiring and the memory will live on in this community.

—Beth Mayers, Behavioral Health Coordinator


You always made people feel that you were approachable. You put forth an aura of genuineness that made you ideal for this position. In an environment where our patients are disenfranchised on many, many levels you made them feel important and listened to.

—Linda Reynolds, Director of Adult Psych Services


Your unwavering support for providing learning opportunities for the teens of the academies of Elizabeth High School has been extraordinary. Countless numbers of students have become Nursing Assistants, Unit Secretaries and EMTs, as well as so many more who have returned as RNs, PA’s and Nurse Anesthetists because you encouraged them to pursue their health care dreams. I can attest to your readiness to support your employees and always greet us with a quick hello and a smile. You embody an expression I have lived with as a product of Jesuit education: You truly exemplify “a man for others.”

—Eileen O’Brien Mulroy, Trinitas Education Dept. & Volunteer Dept.


How time has flown since I interviewed with you at Our Lady Of Mercy! It is amazing how it feels like yesterday, but it is almost 22 years. Thank you for being a friend, a mentor, a role model and a great leader. I have big shoes to fill and look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead.

—Nancy DiLiegro, Trinitas President & CEO


You were the first CEO to approve my privileges as a certified Nurse Midwife in Staten Island when you were the CEO of SVMC in 1993-94. Finding you here at my new home, TRMC/RWJBH, was a sign that I belonged when I started almost 9 years ago. Your support of midwives then and now will always be a blessing to Women.

—Carol Rose-Trzaska, Certified Nurse Midwife

 I remember when you first arrived here replacing our previous CEO. We were told by those that knew you or of your reputation—that you were a people person and always willing to listen and was good to all employees regardless of their rank. I thought that wasn’t true and they just wanted to soften the blow of a rigid, strictly-business man whose only concern was the bottom line. I was so very happy to see what we were told was very true!

—Jose M. Santiago, Trinitas Patient Access Coordinator

 It was a pleasure to have worked under Gary’s leadership for 20 years. He has been a good caring leader with compassion and empathy. His understanding of employees’ and patients’ needs—and balancing both effectively—motivated the staff and addressed the mental health of our patients.

—Maria V. Padron, MD

It has been a privilege to work under your inspirational leadership during the last three years, most notably through the terrible pandemic. Your style, constant presence and support gave us the assurance that we would prevail despite the odds. You have left us in good hands with Nancy DiLiegro.

—Hantz Ricot, Trinitas Director of Respiratory Care & Sleep Departments

 Editor’s Note: The Trinitas Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees has honored Gary Horan with the title of President and Chief Executive Officer Emeritus.

A Career to Remember

As a last hurrah, it was a pleasure to honor and celebrate Gary’s storied career at the Trinitas annual gala in May. His leadership over these past decades has been a true blessing to this organization and its membership, and we look forward to his reprise as President and Chief Executive Officer Emeritus.

Alfonso J. Lopez, Trinitas Board Member and Youth Campaign for the Children founder; Nancy DiLiegro, President/CEO of Trinitas Regional Medical Center; Fotini Allteni, Trustee of the Kosloski Family Foundation & Michael J. Kosloski Foundation; Gary S. Horan, retired President/CEO of Trinitas; Victor M. Richel, Chairman of the Board; and Thomas Biga, Executive Vice President and President RWJBH Northwest Region.

Best Wishes,


No Small Matter

Your smart home network is about to get a lot smarter.

Remember when you first heard the term smart home? For many, those words held the promise of a simple, secure and efficient way for a house or apartment to run itself, with minimal human input and maximum human benefit. The reality, as it unfolded, was something a bit different.


Smart-home devices required a certain comfort level and intuitiveness with technology that not all of us possessed (as well as a higher-than-normal exasperation threshold). Also, as smart as smart homes were, they weren’t always secure. Something as simple as a networked light bulb presented an opportunity (theoretically, at least) for hackers to infiltrate the app that enabled you to turn it on and off. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the early smart homes was that it took a low-level genius to remember how to use all of the different apps unless you purchased everything from the same company. Not surprisingly, Smart Homes for Dummies went through several printings. Some consumers just gave up and came to terms with owning a stupid home. Myself included.

The leading companies competing for the smart-home dollar saw this day coming. They banded together a few years back to create a common language (aka “unifying standard”) that would enable people like yours truly to set up and use smart-home products across multiple platforms. They formed the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) with the goal of simplifying the Internet of Things, or IoT. In the case of the smart home, IoT is shorthand for the various physical objects that are part of a network that shares data and information with other physical objects and which, ideally, you control with a voice command or touchscreen. In other realms, say agriculture, farmers could communicate with their crops via environmental sensors to maximize yields.

Last fall, CSA rolled out Matter, a single protocol to connect devices and systems to one another. It makes smart devices from different companies compatible and simplifies the development process for future products. It represents a huge step forward in terms of attracting the tech-adverse to cutting-edge smart technology. It enables internet-connected devices, big and small—from competing manufacturers—to communicate simply and securely.

I have started to notice the three-sided Matter logo (above) on packaging on recent shopping excursions. It tells you that the device or appliance will be able to connect with the other smart products in your home through Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa or some other hub. Set-up is simpler and voice-control of “everything” should be achievable with a minimum of technical expertise. This summer, I plan to give it a whirl—not a small step for me and my spouse, who have spent years operating our various smart devices one at a time and actually disconnected our “Hey Google” assistant.


Our home security system, central air conditioning, dishwasher, washing machine, iPhones and one of our cars are all speaking to one another. More importantly, we are starting to speak to them.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, we occupy an older demographic than the early adopters that embraced that first wave of smart-home products. As we stood on the sidelines, waiting to matter enough for something like Matter to come to market, we often felt like second-rate consumers. It was kind of a head-scratcher. We are not what I would call tech-adverse and, more to the point, we were ready to buy a bunch of new appliances and things like stereos and TVs—but didn’t want to invest in equipment that would have required us to use multiple networks to operate them. We left a lot of money on the table while manufacturers spent countless millions trying to outmaneuver one increasingly less-stupid home. another and capture a lion’s share of the marketplace. Now when we need to replace something (our refrigerator is making odd noises so it will be next) we will be looking for the Matter logo and folding it into our


So who exactly is making our home smarter? A consortium of companies with skin in the electronics game that includes Apple and Amazon. These two support-friendly companies learned a lot from stressed-out customers over the years and are at the forefront of the Matter protocol. If you use Alexa or Siri or another Matter-compliant platform, every smart device you own and plan to own should join the network minus all of the annoying apps and passcodes and registration hassles without (and this is key) compromising your home network’s security. Set-up involves scanning a code or holding your smartphone near a new device or appliance and letting Matter mostly do the rest.

Right now, more than 200 companies are out there developing stuff for the Matter platform. This is encouraging, because there is widespread acceptance of Matter in the electronics industry, which means it is unlikely that a Matter “competitor” will arise to complicate life all over again. As for older smart-home devices, most should offer the opportunity to update their firmware and join the new network through Matter bridges. A few, unfortunately, probably won’t. Among the more recognizable brands among the 200-plus that are making Matter-compliant products are Google, Samsung, GE, Belkin, and Philips, along with the aforementioned Amazon and Apple. As of May 2023, more than 700 different products had been certified by CSA to work on the Matter wireless standard—not bad, considering there were just a handful available last Christmas.

A Taste of Northern Soul

Forget about math…food is the universal language.

As a child, I loved to eat. Food was everything to me. In fact, it’s been said that my first word was “bread.” It’s hard to find a picture of me as a toddler without a piece of bread in my hand or my mouth. My favorite toys were the pots and pans and wooden spoons in the kitchen. At age five, when most boys wanted a new Tonka truck, I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven. I received one and I used it to create my first masterpiece, a chocolate cake baked with the heat of a 100-watt lightbulb.

Courtesy of Justin Sutherland

From the beginning, the near-sacred importance of sitting down to a meal as a family was ingrained in me. My parents divorced when I was young. My mother, who was a flight attendant and often traveling, still always made sure we sat down at the dinner table and ate together. Even preparing for and cleaning up after the meal was a family affair: One brother set the table, one cleared the table, and one swept the floor, and everyone helped with the dishes (although not without the occasional pushback). Our meals were never fancy, and my mother’s signature dishes are still my three favorite meals of all time—but only when cooked by her: spaghetti with meat sauce, tater-tot hot-dish with chicken and broccoli, and her famous fried rice.

It wasn’t until I started eating at friends’ houses at sleepovers that I realized how special our mealtime really was. I come from a very diverse and multicultural family. On my mother’s side, my grandmother Masako came to this country from Japan during the Korean War speaking no English and at a time when the United States had poor relations, to say the least, with Japan. She wasn’t allowed to bring any of her culture to this country for fear of repercussions from the United States government. My grandfather on that side is a 6-foot, 5-inch Viking of Norwegian descent, a product of the Great Depression, from a family of farmers and carpenters.

On my father’s side, I am the descendant of slaves and sharecroppers. My grandfather, Harold, came up from Mississippi and settled in Waterloo, Iowa, with my Grandma Zona. Food was Zona’s love language and her food was the start of my love of soul food and barbecue.

It was the combined cultures of my family that gave me my first glimpse into the vast possibilities that foods brought to the world. The day I realized that not all family dinners consisted of Southern collard greens, Japanese sushi, and Norwegian lefse (a potato flatbread), all together on the same table, was the first time I realized we were different. I loved it and I wanted to learn and experience more.

With my Grandma Masako unable to truly share her culture, or even to teach her own children her language, her food was the gateway to her story. At a young age, I followed her around the kitchen, tasting everything from rice balls filled with pickled plums to somen—or, as we called them, “summer noodles”—pickled daikon and mochi, to tonkatsu and, my all-time favorite, sukiyaki, a one-pot family-style dish that filled my

brothers and me with so much joy every time she shared it. Whenever we could, we would invite our white American friends to her house to share our grandmother with them and let them experience this magic in a pot.

Burnell, my Norwegian grandfather, taught me the importance of respecting food. He taught me that no meal was ever complete without a slice of bread with butter and a glass of cold milk. As a product of a farming family during the Depression, he instilled in all of us the rule that we must never waste food, and, if food was prepared for you, you ate it all. Even when he became financially secure, he still would cut the mold off a block of cheese, because the rest of it was still good and not to be wasted. And you never left the table until your plate was clean.

Burnell gave me an appreciation for good, wholesome Midwest comfort food. He was all meat and potatoes. His wife, my Japanese grandmother, learned how to prepare pot roast, Swedish meatballs, spareribs with sauerkraut, and meatloaf. Burnell and I would make a weekly trip to the VFW post for the lutefisk dinner—the lye-soaked fish covered in a mystery white sauce alongside what had to be boxed white potatoes. But I always cleaned my plate, because that’s what you did when you ate with Grandpa. These foods were humble, but to this day, they always remind me of the importance of respecting food. Nothing must be wasted, and a meal is never complete without bread and butter.

Grandma Zona was the Big Mama to her neighborhood. She was a mother to so many neighborhood kids and, although she never had a lot of money, she always made sure that anyone and everyone who came to her table was fed. From church basement lunches (which were sorely needed after a five-hour Methodist service) to Saturday cookouts to every meal in between, she loved to cook, she loved to serve food, and she loved to protect.

It was something of a culture shock when we would travel from our suburban life in Apple Valley, Minnesota, to visit Grandma Zona in what, in my young mind, was “the hood.” There was clearly a disparity between what I had at home and what I experienced in her neighborhood. But I found a very tight-knit and connected community there. It gave me a chance to experience a different way of life—sitting on the front stoop shooting dice, foolishly playing chicken with oncoming trains, or riding bikes to the corner store to get my uncle a pack of cigarettes, knowing I would be able to keep the change to buy a couple Laffy Taffy candies or Lemonheads. With my brothers and cousins, I explored the many abandoned houses and we would take off running when we found a squatter. It was such a different life from where I lived, but I loved it.

All of the happiness and connection in this community was most visible in its food, and especially its soul food. In Grandma Zona’s kitchen, it seemed as if there was always a pot of collard greens on the stove, someone cleaning chitlins with a toothbrush, and a vat of hot oil just waiting for perfectly breaded chicken to be submerged.

Then there were the barbecues. Now, we aren’t talking about the weekend warriors with their Big Green Eggs or other trendy smokers or grills in the driveway. This was the whole neighborhood coming together at a local park to cook, commune, and throw down. It was the deacons from church alongside the neighborhood drug dealers, gang members of different affiliations, absent fathers, and baby mamas—and everyone was somehow your cousin. They all put everything aside to come together to grill and eat. My uncle Hawkeye always manned the grill with his 40-ounce beer in one hand and the barbecue didn’t stop until there were no more coals. This food spoke to me. It was something more than a meal. It had heart. It tasted like family. But what it really was all about, I believe, was that it had soul.

My life continued on this path, in which the love of food shared with my family was at the center of everything that mattered, for many years. As I matured, I became not just an observer of food but an active student of it. I ate everything I could, everywhere I could. I especially found myself wanting to learn more about the South, about soul food—the food that spoke to me most.

When I decided to turn food into a career, I moved to Atlanta. I had gone earlier to business school, but at the suggestion of my father, Kerry, and with a lot of encouragement from him and others, I decided to

pivot in a new direction and go to culinary school. I chose Atlanta because I wanted to be close to the foods of the South and the people who mastered them. I began to explore firsthand the dining and cooking of the South, from New Orleans to St. Louis, Mississippi to Georgia, Alabama to Texas. Spending time in these places filled my nose with the smells of soulful foods. It filled my stomach with their flavors. And it fed my soul.

When I moved back home to Minnesota and decided to open my first restaurant, Handsome Hog, the most important thing for me was to share those feelings and experiences. As my Grandma Zona had done for me, I wanted to welcome everyone to my table and help feed their souls. And I want to pay homage to the memories and the feelings of that soul food…the food that was smuggled into the United States by my ancestors—beans and seeds hidden in the hair of West African women in the slave trade who were stolen from their homes as labor to build this country.

This food encompasses the unwanted scraps that were discarded and left to our people, and that have now become soughtafter delicacies. This is food that was enjoyed in generations of Southern restaurants, with white owners in the front while the true culinary geniuses worked out of sight in the back. In the book Northern Soul, I tell these stories through the lens of all of my experiences, not just my origin and my family, but also through my training in classic French cuisine and fine dining, and my many years of national and international travel—for which I thank my flight-attendant mother. As a born Northerner, this is the food that resonates with me, that feeds my soul. The recipes in Northern Soul are the stories of my life. Here are three that celebrate the bounty of summer—not just in New Jersey, but wherever you happen to call “home.”


Watermelon Salad

with Bourbon Vinaigrette


Nothing signals the arrival of summer like watermelon! This salad is a fresh way to enjoy this amazing fruit and will definitely make you the star of the BBQ. Just remember: If you swallow a seed, a watermelon might grow in your stomach!

1 medium watermelon, seeded and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

2 English cucumbers, seeded and cut into 1⁄2-inch (1 cm) slices

2 cups (40 g) baby arugula

1⁄4 cup (35 g) sliced pickled chiles

1 large shallot, cut horizontally into thin rings

1⁄4 cup (25 g) toasted pecans

1 tablespoon (18 g) smoked salt

  • Toss together the watermelon, cucumbers, arugula, chiles, shallot and pecans in a salad bowl.
  • Toss the salad ingredients with the vinaigrette (below), sprinkle smoked salt over the top and serve.

Bourbon Vinaigrette


A delicate part of this recipe is igniting the bourbon to cook off the alcohol and enhance the deep, smoky flavors that make it so distinctive. Cook the reduction in a well-ventilated space and over a low flame to prevent any loose clothing, or, in my case, substantial facial hair, from catching fire. That will ruin any party.

1 cup (235 ml) bourbon

1⁄2 cup (176 g) Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons (22 g) whole-grain mustard

1⁄2 cup (118 ml) apple cider vinegar

1⁄4 cup (40 g) minced shallots

2 tablespoons (26 g) sugar

1 tablespoon plus 3⁄4 teaspoon (7 g) freshly ground black pepper

1 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup (235 ml) extra virgin olive oil

  • Heat the bourbon in a saucepan over medium heat until the fumes ignite. Continue to cook over low heat, swirling constantly, until the flame dies out. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Whisk together the bourbon, both mustards, vinegar, shallots, sugar, pepper, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl while whisking vigorously to emulsify.
  • Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before using.

Asha Belk

Shrimp Po’Boy

In my dreams, I walk into a perfectly manicured backyard garden surrounded by my friends. The magnolias are in full bloom. Someone places a tall bourbon cocktail in my hand. I can smell the smoke and caramelizing meat of a well-tended barbecue pit and there—on the buffet table—next to a mountain of shucked oysters on ice, acres of deviled eggs, and a bowl of hush puppies, is a pile of shrimp po’ boys stacked like cordwood. There’s one for everybody, and they’re still warm. I’m passing along this recipe because I want you to help make my dream come true.


Peanut oil for deep-frying

12 large (size 16/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup (140 g) finely ground cornmeal

1⁄2 cup (63 g) all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup (50 g) Cajun Seasoning (page 13)

1⁄2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk

2 hoagie rolls

1⁄4 cup (63 g) Remoulade

1⁄2 cup (28 g) shredded iceberg lettuce

2 plum tomatoes, cut 1⁄4-inch (6 mm) thick

  • To make the shrimp, heat the peanut oil in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven to 350°F (177°C). Set out a wire rack for draining the fried shrimp.
  • Make a dredge for the shrimp by combining the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, and Cajun Seasoning in a bowl. Submerge the shrimp in the buttermilk. Remove them, let them dry briefly, then toss them to coat in the dredge.
  • Working in batches, fry the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Drain briefly on the wire rack.
  • To assemble the sandwiches, slather the insides of the hoagie rolls generously with the remoulade. Add the iceberg lettuce and sliced tomato, and finish with the breaded shrimp, fresh out of the deep-fryer. Serve immediately.

Asha Belk

Go-To Cajun Seasoning

All of the ingredients in this recipe should be stocked in your pantry for use individually from time to time, so picking up any you may be missing is doing yourself as great a favor. Keep this blend at the ready for all sorts of meat, vegetables and seafood that make their way into your kitchen.


1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (53 g) ground cayenne

1⁄4 cup (75 g) kosher salt

1⁄4 cup (36 g) garlic powder

1⁄4 cup (28 g) sweet paprika

2 tablespoons (14 g) onion powder

2 tablespoons (5 g) dried thyme

2 tablespoons (6 g) dried oregano

2 tablespoons (12 g) freshly ground black pepper

  • Mix together the cayenne, salt, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, thyme, oregano and pepper in a bowl.
  • Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place for up to 4 weeks.

Asha Belk


Lobster Étoufée

Étouffée means stuffed or smothered. This dish is smothered in deliciousness, not to mention topped with a whole lobster tail. This ain’t your grandma’s étouffée.


6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter

2 cups (320 g) diced white onion

1 cup (150 g) diced green pepper

1 cup (120 g) diced celery

4 garlic cloves, minced

1⁄4 cup (31 g) all-purpose flour

2 cups (390 g) uncooked white rice

2 quarts (1.9 L) shellfish stock, seafood stock, or fish stock

1 (15.5 ounce / 439 g) can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons (36 g) Cajun Seasoning (page 13)

1 tablespoon (15 g) habanero hot sauce

1 tablespoon (2 g) fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons (28 ml) Worcestershire sauce

1⁄4 cup (59 ml) fresh lemon juice

8 ounces (225 g) lobster claw meat

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 small to medium lobster tails

4 lemon wedges

  • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons (55 g) of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Whisk in the flour until a roux just begins to form, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  • Cook the rice according to the package instructions and keep warm, if necessary, until it is needed.
  • Add the stock to the vegetable-roux mixture and stir thoroughly, taking care that there are no lumps in the roux. Add the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons (24 g) of the Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the lobster meat and cook for 5 minutes more. Add some additional stock if the sauce is too thick. Add salt and pepper to taste and keep the mixture warm over low heat.
  • With kitchen scissors, cut a slit in the top of each lobster tail from the front to the end of the tail. Using a fork or spoon, pull the tail meat out through the slit and let it rest on top of the shell.
  • Preheat the broiler to 500°F (250°C). Meanwhile, transfer the tails to a broiler-ready sheet pan. In a separate pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons (28 g) of butter. Brush this butter onto the lobster tail meat and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon (12 g) of Cajun seasoning on top. Broil the tails for 6 to 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.
  • Divide the rice among 4 plates. Pour the sauce over the rice and top each serving with a lobster tail. Serve with lemon wedges.

A dear friend of mine often says, “Everything good in my life started over a meal.” No words ever rang truer. Food is so much more than a means to an end. More than just the calories and nutrients that sustain our physical lives, food is a fuel that powers us spiritually and emotionally, too. Food tells a story, evokes memories, bridges gaps and connects humanity by a singular thread.


Courtesy of Justin Sutherland

Editor’s Note: Justin Sutherland is familiar to EDGE foodies for his appearance on Top Chef and his victory on Iron Chef America, as well as a hosting gig on Fast Foodies. He completed Northern Soul in 2022 while recovering from a near-fatal boating accident. He narrowly escaped the loss of an arm and an eye, but is back in the kitchen and on his way to a full recovery. Justin was recently featured in a segment by friend of EDGE Tamron Hall on her talk show…and his book has since taken off. It is available from The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quatro Group.

Asha Belk’s food photography has been featured in several books and magazines. In 2021, her work documented the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.




Double Vision

New Jersey’s Top 10 Twins

They say that twins share a special connection. In the case of these celebrity sets—some identical, some not—they have taken special to a whole new level…

Ken Hackman

Lou & Ed Banach 

Wrestling Sussex County

Lou and Ed Banach went into foster care (and were later adopted) after a fire destroyed their home and their mother suffered a nervous breakdown. The fraternal twins became football stars and champion wrestlers after moving to Port Jervis, NY, cobbling together a home gym from heavy iron parts found along the railroad tracks near their house. After All-American grappling careers, they entered the 1984 Olympics. Ed shook off a concussion to win a gold medal at 198 pounds and Lou took home gold wrestling one division higher, as a light heavyweight.



Mark & Scott Kelly

Aerospace West Orange

As identical twins, the Kelly brothers enabled NASA to gauge the effects of microgravity and radiation on the human body when Scott lived and worked for a year on the International Space Station and Mark remained on earth as the “control” subject. Scott’s first space flight was in 1999 as pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Mark piloted Endeavour into orbit in 2001. Mark devoted himself to political activism after his wife, US congresswoman Gabby Giffords, survived a 2011 assassination attempt. He was elected to the US Senate in 2020 in a special election and was reelected in the 2022 general election.


Rutgers Athletics

Patty & Mary Coyle

Basketball • Rutgers

In 1982, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) held its final national championship before giving way to the Women’s NCAA Tournament. Rutgers, powered by twin guards Patty and Mary Coyle—who honed their skills on the Philly playgrounds—edged host school Villanova in the semifinals and scored a huge upset over powerhouse Texas in the final. Mary picked apart the Longhorns’ full-court press and Patty scored 30 points to win the tourney’s MVP award. The Coyles each went on to successful coaching careers and were inducted into the Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2022, they were featured in the documentary Forgotten Champions: How an Underground Rutgers Squad Made Women’s Sports History.


Loshak Public Relations

Kenny & Keith Lucas

Entertainment • Newark

Kenny and Keith Lucas were born in Newark, graduated from Irvington High School and TCNJ, and then attended law school (at NYU and Duke, respectively) before leaving to start their entertainment careers. In addition to their regular gigs at The Comedy Cellar in New York, the Lucas Brothers are popular TV, radio and podcast talk-show guests. In 2021, they co-wrote and produced Judas and the Black Messiah, a film about Black Panther Fred Hampton, and received an Oscar nomination for their work.


Warner Music

Christina & Michelle Naughton

Music • Princeton

Born in New Jersey and raised in Madison, WI, the identical twin sisters began performing as a duo while they were pre-teens and continued right through Juilliard and beyond, becoming international sensations. The original suggestion came from a concert promoter. “We said, Sure, we’ll give it a try,” Michelle recalls. “We worked on it, we performed, and something magical happened. We looked at each other and said, I love this, and we never looked back.” In 2019, they became the first piano duo to receive Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant.



Upper Case

Jason & Devin McCourty

Football • Rutgers

The identical McCourtys grew up in Nyack and attended high school in Bergen County before starring in the defensive backfield for Rutgers. Both enjoyed long NFL careers—Devin with the New England Patriots and Jason mostly with the Tennessee Titans. In 2019, after Jason joined the Patriots, they became the first set of twins in NFL history to play together in the Super Bowl. The McCourtys were named New England’s team captains in 2020.


Topps Inc.

Johnny & Eddie O’Brien

Basketball & Baseball South Amboy

The O’Briens were identical twins, but as their athletic careers unfolded, Johnny became the more accom-plished brother. He led the nation in scoring for the University of Seattle and spearheaded a historic defeat of the Harlem Globetrotters in a fiercely contested 1952 “no-clowning” charity game. During their varsity hoops career, the twins combined for nearly 4,000 points. After college, Johnny and Eddie, who formed a slick double-play combination, were signed to play baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates and enjoyed brief big-league careers.


Syracuse Athletics

Walter & Milton Singer

Football • Jersey City

During the early 1930s, the identical twin Singer brothers were the most talked-about athletes in Jersey City. The rock-solid six-footers starred for the Dickinson High School football and baseball teams. Milt was an all-state running back and Walt was an all-state end. As seniors in 1930, they led the Rams to an unbeaten record and state championship. They went on to star in multiple sports at Syracuse University, where Walt also won the intercollegiate heavyweight boxing crown. Walt played pro football with the Giants and was a member of the 1934 championship team.


Denise & Dennis Mitchell

Track • Winslow Township

The fleet-footed twins started making headlines for Winslow-Edgewood High in the 1980s when Denise shaved an unheard-of three full seconds off the state 400-mtere record; it took 19 years for another runner to better that mark. Dennis went on to become a 12-time college All-American and ran with fellow New Jerseyan Carl Lewis as a member of the gold medal-winning 4 x 100 team in the 1992 Olympics. He was still winning 100 meters championships in his 30s.



Doug & Mike Starn

Art • Vineland

The identical Starns began working together on photography and art projects in their teens and have been pushing the limits of art, architecture, painting, video and furniture design by constantly combining and re-combining their areas of interest and expertise. In 2010, their Big Bambu installation atop the Metropolitan Museum overlooking Central Park drew hundreds of thousands of art lovers. The Starns’ work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.





Upper Case

Tom Kelly • Twins Manager

Several New Jersey baseball players have suited up for the Minnesota Twins, but Kelly—who grew up in Sayreville—was the only one to manage the club to a pennant. He did so in 1987 and again in 1991, and won the World Series both times.


Universal Pictures

Danny DeVito • Co-Star of Twins

The Neptune-born DeVito co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1988 blockbuster Twins, which grossed $200 million. They joined forces again in 1994 on Junior, which bombed at the box office.


The Upper Deck Co.

Jose and Ozzie Canseco • Newark Bears

The Cansecos attempted to revive their flagging baseball careers with Newark’s independent minor-league club in 2001. Jose, a six-time All-Star and one-time MVP, was more well-known than his identical-twin brother. Playing together as boys, Ozzie did most of the pitching and Jose did most of the hitting, which turned out to be a smart move for the two-time home run champion.


Gary’s favorites: My Books

Retirement offers the chance to re-read some favorites. These books are calling out from the bookshelf…

The Blue Messiah by James D. Horan

The Chamber by John Grisham

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald











The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Misery by Stephen King

The Associate by John Grisham

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Connect the Dots

Was there any better feeling as a child than finishing a connect-the-dots puzzle to see the picture you’d created? Here are our picks for history’s Top 5 Dots…


Dippin’ Dots

The flash-frozen ice cream snack turns 35 this year. Because they are created with liquid nitrogen at a super-low temperature, you can’t find them in the freezer aisle. More likely at a ballpark, arena, mall kiosk or vending machine.


Fictional Dots

The all-time greats include Dot Freeland (Frank L. Baum’s follow-up to Dorothy), Dot Warner (the lone female Animaniac), Dot from A Bug’s Life and Little Dot (the dot-obsessed Harvey Comics character).



Non-Fictional Dots

Dr. Dot Richardson (two-time Olympic gold medal shortstop), Dot Wilkinson (member of both the Bowling and Softball Halls of Fame), Dot Lemon (pioneering aviatrix) and Dot Farley (star of dozens of Mack Sennett film comedies).




DOTS Candy

The gum drop you never bought at the movies or wanted at Halloween, but somehow couldn’t resist—at the peril of crowns and fillings. Well, someone’s eating them; last year Tootsie Roll Industries pumped out 4 billion of them.



The Dots in Ellipsis

One of the great forms of punctuation, which says so much by not saying anything. Among the masters of the ellipsis was San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.


Honorable Mention

The Zen Dots font, the award-winning Dots video game, the Dots in Morse Code, Lego Dots, the Department of Transportation and slick-fielding Kearny, NJ, native Dots Miller of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Photo Credits:

Dot and Tot • Geo. M. Hill

Dot Warner • The WB

Little Dot • Harvey Entertainment Group

Dot Richardson • Liberty Univ. Athletics

Dot Wilkinson • Softball History USA

Dot Lemon • Upper Case

Dot Farley • Univ. Of Washington

EDGE Interview: Leslie Bibb

If you feel as if you’ve seen Leslie Bibb “in everything,” there are two reasons why. There is very little she has not accomplished in film and television, and she possesses a rare talent for lighting up a scene whenever she steps in front of the camera. And no one is better at getting a laugh. After a successful modeling career, Leslie rocketed to stardom as the star of the WB comedy-drama Popular and raised the bar higher yet with a tour de force as Carley Bobby in Talladega Nights. Her film work includes the Iron Man franchise, Law Abiding Citizen, No Good Deed, Tag, The Lost Husband and a sneaky-smart dark comedy called Miss Nobody. Her TV credits number in the many dozens, including memorable turns on ER, Crossing Jordan, GCB and American Housewife. In God’s Favorite Idiot, she played Satan and in Jupiter’s Legacy she played a superhero mom. Needless to say, Leslie does not shrink from a challenge. She sat down with Gerry Strauss for an energetic, wide-ranging discussion About My Father and Palm Royale. of her life and career, and her two newest projects,

EDGE: When you were growing up, were you thinking about a life in modeling and entertainment?

LB: Being from Virginia and growing up in a very country sort of town, it still seems crazy to me. I was coming out of a movie theater with Sam [Rockwell], and he said, “Cookie, there’s your poster.” I walked over and I looked at it and I just saw like, Sebastian Maniscalco, Robert De Niro, Leslie Bibb. And I was like, What? It’s surreal. Growing up, I wanted to get into the University of Virginia and thought I might go into politics, because I was a page in the General Assembly and my mom ran campaigns. Later, she was the Director of Consumer Affairs for the Commonwealth of Virginia. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and sort of segue into politics. I won this contest on Oprah Winfrey and it changed the trajectory of my life. My father had died when I was quite young and my mom raised me and my three older sisters. We weren’t a family that traveled. Before my mother and I moved to Richmond, we lived in Lovingston, which was such a country town—like if you needed new sneakers, you had to drive 35 miles to Charlottesville. Our big thing was we went to Virginia Beach. One time we went to Disney World. Suddenly, I was traveling to Europe. It was definitely wild. [Laughs] I’m grateful and feel like something in this lifetime I did right. It feels good.

EDGE: How did you get involved in the modeling contest?

LB: My sister Trish called my mom and said, “Hey, Oprah Winfrey is sponsoring this model search. You should take a couple pictures of Leslie and send them in.” My mom shot a whole roll, but she wasn’t a good photographer, so there were literally two that weren’t, like, a blur. She sent them in and I was one of 63 girls picked out of 6,000. Wow! Then we got narrowed down to 20. They flew us into Chicago for the weekend and we filmed an actual Oprah Winfrey Show. It didn’t even make sense to me…it felt like I was living a fairytale. And then I won! It was crazy. That summer I went to Japan and started modeling at 16. I was able to start paying my own way, which was a really nice thing for my mom, who’d been pretty selfless with us. Then I fulfilled the dream of getting into UVA.

EDGE: But you left college as a freshman. Was that a difficult decision?

Tina Turnbow

LB: In high school, I could go to New York and do a catalog or a 17 Magazine shoot and miss a week of school. I couldn’t do that in college. That first semester, I couldn’t find the balance between the two. I was walking back to my dorm on a Saturday night after a fraternity event where I saw some [disturbing stuff] happen and something crystallized and I realized I had to abandon what I thought I was going to do my whole life, leave college and go to New York. I just kept telling myself, You have a job and we’ll see what happens. That Monday, I went into the dean’s office and I asked for a leave of absence. I called my mom and to her credit, she was great. I said, “It’s only a semester. I’m only taking off a semester [laughs]. I swear.” UVA was a really good school and I worked really hard to get into it my whole life. Every time you studied and every time you did something it was to get into this school. And then to abandon that for something so weird like going to New York to be a model? I knew I wasn’t going to be a big model, like those girls you see walking around town. I’m not that pretty. I’m not that tall. I’m not special in that way. But I moved to New York on January 5th and I’ve never looked back. I’m so in love with the city, even when it makes me crazy. The minute I got here it made me feel like I was home. I mean, I remember when I was 16 in the model apartment that Elite had me in, looking out the window and just being in awe of it. So it feels to me like a warm hug, New York City.

EDGE: Were you acting at this point?

LB: Our high school didn’t have a big arts program and I just wasn’t hip to it. So, it wasn’t like I always knew I wanted to be an actress. But now, when I look back, I’m like, Oh, comedy—of course! It makes sense to me because all I was doing was watching Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman as a kid. Yeah. I didn’t understand what was seeping in at the time. Within a year of moving to New York, I found acting and the minute I walked into the Maggie Flanigan Studio it just went great. I was like I’m with my people.

EDGE: Your first recurring character was Brooke McQueen on the WB series Popular, which brought a whole new level of attention. How did you process that?

LB: This is pre-Twitter, pre-Instagram so [television] was the world. It was a very sort of G-rated popularity, you know what I mean? People were still kindhearted and not troll-y. I look at young actors now who are coming up and I really feel for them, because it was kind of Utopian. You went to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards or the Teen Choice Awards. It was exciting and cool and wonderful.

EDGE: Was the success of Popular validating for you, not getting the immediate feedback of social media that you have now?

Dan Anderson/Lionsgate

LB: It was validating but you know what’s funny? I didn’t really feel that while we were filming Popular. I feel it more now. I would say once a week somebody stops bullets just bounce off of you. me and goes, “I loved you in Popular!” Carly Pope, who played Sam McPherson on the show and is still like my sister—we’re forever tethered to each other [laughs]— I don’t think we realized what was happening or the impact we had. We were kids, you know, and you think, Oh, this happens every day. You get to be the star of a show every day. And then the show goes away and you’re like, Oh no, now I’m just a working actress who has to hustle for another job. But you’re such a kid. You’re just like, I can do anything. Yeah. What’s next? Back then, remember, you had pilot season. You didn’t have all the streamers. There was NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and the WB was like the new channel. So yeah, it was just really exciting. You’re made of Teflon at that age;

EDGE: In Talladega Nights, you’re hilarious, you’re in the room holding your own with Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly…

LB: …Molly Shannon, Sacha Baron Cohen…

EDGE: Yes, so here’s the question. Sometimes actors in a situation with established comic legends are there to kind of have that hilarity bounce off of them. You were in a situation where you had to volley back and give as much as you got. What’s the key to walking in there and pulling that off?

LB: Thank you for saying that. Thank God I studied acting! I looked at Carley Bobby and just knew who she was. I had her so crafted in my mind and I was so rooted in that character. Don’t get me wrong. In the audition with Will, when I had to screen test with him, my hands were shaking before I went in. But I’d strung these pearls and I came in with a beer can. Will was improvising, and then I improvised something about my pearls. [Director] Adam McKay asked, “What was that?” And I said, “I feel like Carley is the star of her own Country & Western love song [laughs]. I feel like her mama told her that pearls make you a lady, so she always wears pearls.” To Adam and Will’s credit, they made that playing field so easy. They give you a ball, they give you a bat, they give you a mitt and they say, Let’s go!

EDGE: What did you take away from that film about improvisation? Clearly there was a lot of that happening.

Upper Case Editorial

LB: Adam once said, “Never sit on an intention. Even if you say something and it goes south, it’s not that the improv is wrong, it just falls flat. There could be something that we hit on that could lead to something great.” It really was the best piece of advice because it is something I carry through in all my work. And I try to—whether it’s a comedy or not—just trust my instinct. Which can be hard sometimes if you have a director that’s sort of diminishing you or making you not feel safe, to remember to do that. But you must do that as an actor. Never, ever sit on your intention if your instinct is pulling you somewhere. Go with it.

EDGE: Do you consider that your signature role?

LB: I do. I think it would be Carley Bobby. I don’t think I knew that I could do that. That was the game-changer for me, in terms of believing in myself and trusting my instincts.

EDGE: You played reporter Christine Everhart in Iron Man, the very first movie in the Marvel Universe, and continued in that role on-screen and in voiceovers. How do you process the success of that franchise?

LB: In addition to being part of these movies that people watch and stream every minute of every day, I’m most proud of Iron Man because I think—not because I’m in it—out of all of those movies, Iron Man is the best and the most well-made. I remember when we were filming it, Jon Favreau saying to me, “I feel like we’re shooting the most expensive independent film ever.” Remember, Robert Downey Jr. was not Robert Downey Jr. yet. It was a big deal but it did feel like an independent film. It was not super cool, not this big, polished thing—even though it was very polished and very cool. What changed me was getting to see people like Robert and Gwyneth Paltrow work, and to work with Jon, who is one of my favorite directors because he is a great actor, which makes him a brilliant director. I did good work and I’m proud of it.

EDGE: This year, you’re in About My Father, a comedy with acting legend Robert De Niro and one of the hottest standups, Sebastian Maniscalco. With everyone coming from different directions, how did you go about creating chemistry?

Tina Turnbow

LB: Okay. So I think chemistry is something you never know if it’s going to be good or not good. Luckily, we all had great chemistry and were fortunate enough that somehow that chemistry was translated to film. ’Cause sometimes you feel like it’s happening, but then it falls flat. It’s this weird thing. You can feel alive when you’re filming it, but then when you see it, you’re like, Where is it? Maybe the director filmed it in a weird way. Maybe the editor did something. Luckily, everything that felt so great when we did it in 2021 in Mobile, Alabama, when I saw it, I was like, Oh, it’s on screen! The chemistry comes from David Rasche, Kim Cattrall, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, Sebastian (above) and Bob and myself. Everybody knew who their character was. Everybody had a very strong idea of what they were doing. If we started improvising something, our wonderful director Laura Terruso was always game. Her mom is Sicilian, so she knows this world and she was the best captain of a ship we could have had. She navigated this whole course for us. And you know, Sebastian and Austen Earl wrote a great script and I think it was on the page. Sebastian did an incredible job being number one on the call sheet and being the lead of a movie, which he’d never done before. He was a wonderful partner in crime. And I love Ellie, the character I play. I love her optimism and her indomitable spirit.

EDGE: Your other release this year is the Apple series Palm Royale, a comedy starring Kristen Wiig that features Carol Burnett in an impressive cast.

Dan Anderson/Lionsgate

LB: I love Kristen Wiig so much and I feel like I grew as an actor, leaps and bounds, getting to watch that woman work. Carol Burnett is so awesome. It’s like crazy to me. Allison Janney, I mean, who doesn’t love Allison Janney? Laura Dern who’s just…I want a cup of whatever Laura Dern is drinking in life. God, she’s such a force. Ricky Martin, Josh Lucas, me— it’s 1969 Palm Beach, Florida and my character’s just insane. I had never gotten to do something quite like this before. The show is quite big and I’m really proud of it. Most of my stuff is with Kristen; we’re sort of each other’s nemesis.

EDGE: You’ve done so much in film and television, what’s out there that intrigues you as something different you’d like to do?

LB: I’ve always wanted to do a Western because I love riding horses. But I really want to direct, so that would be the next hat I’d want to wear, the next thing that I want to do for myself. Direct on a horse, maybe! But no, direct. I think that would be an incredible challenge.

 Editor’s Note: Leslie Bibb’s decision to leave college and launch her career as a model and actress turned out to be a good one. To get the truth about this moment of truth, check out the extended version of her Q&A at edgemagonline.com.

Deep Learning Curve

AI promises to play a game-changing role in radiology, but the algorithms have a long way to go.

No topic has been hotter in the media this year than the coming of artificial intelligence. AI is getting better and getting faster and, some fear, getting a bit ahead of our ability to understand and control it. That is up for debate—and there will be debate—but most of AI’s proponents are more focused on the best ways to harness it. AI has the awesome potential to make us smarter, safer, faster and more productive. And that has people in the medical profession very interested.

The fact is that artificial intelligence is nothing new. You’ve been using it since the first time you followed directions from a GPS app. AI has been a part of medicine for a while now, too. Computer-aided detection, for example, was being used in mammography in the 1990s. And many FDA-cleared algorithms are currently in use, including at Trinitas. What’s new are some profound advances in deep learning, which combines algorithms with massive amounts of input data to create a level of “expertise” that will enable doctors to perform faster and more efficiently. And theoretically, one day, AI will be able to see and predict things that humans cannot.

In radiology, AI has already revealed its game-changing potential. The digital images that have traditionally been interpreted by radiologists are now being translated into quantitative data, which is then used to create algorithms to detect anomalies that might be invisible to the human eye. This in turn can alert a doctor to a situation that he or she can address sooner than ever before. If you know someone in the radiology field, then you know that it can be a high-stress job with little or no margin for error—either missing something important or producing a false positive. Sophisticated AI-supported clinical decision-making can only help.

Far From Perfect

Dr. Albert Li, a vascular and interventional radiology specialist—who considers himself the “champion of AI” in his practice—cautions that, although the potential is exciting, currently it’s far from perfect. “Right now,” he says, “it’s meant to augment the experience of radiologists, who are trained to interpret what the AI is telling them and then either accept it or dismiss it. The thing to understand about AI is that it doesn’t ‘know’ what it’s looking at—or what it means—it only understands how to look for the patterns it has been programmed to look for.”


Patients should be reassured, Dr. Li adds, that the algorithms currently being deployed are indeed meant to help radiologists perform more accurately and faster. They are good at detection (detection of tumors, detection of brain bleed) and at triage—in the sense that, when the computer sees a grave abnormality, it tells the radiologist to prioritize its interpretation.

“My goal as a radiologist is that AI must be safe for my patients—not to make money, not to generate revenue. Whatever we employ, it needs to be effective and safe.”

While the benefits of AI in respect to outcomes and patient safety are obvious, less obvious is the fact that the same deep learning skills can be applied to almost every aspect of the patient experience—from scheduling to imaging decisions to examination protocols, as well as managing workflow for the hospital staff, which has become a higher priority throughout the industry post-COVID. AI also has the potential to decrease by 30 to 50 percent the time it takes to produce a scan and to pull together an image, which enables radiology departments to see many more patients a day. And of course, AI doesn’t get “tired.”

Needless to say, some big tech companies are working to make AI a bigger part of healthcare, including Google, Siemens and Canon.

Big Picture


One area that could benefit greatly from AI is the whole-body scan. By measuring and analyzing hundreds of biomarkers, both individually and as part of the body’s system, the chances of identifying and accurately predicting future medical issues are greatly increased. Right now, whole-body scans are too time-consuming and expensive to be available to the general population. That could change in the not-so-distant future as better deep-learning algorithms and scanning equipment are developed. For instance, AI may observe that a patient has a probability of developing a disease like cancer in the future, even though there is absolutely no sign of the disease at that moment. Dr. Li jokes that this reminds him a little of the movie Minority Report.

“I don’t know that we’ll see something like this in the next 10 years,” he says. “A lot of people talk about diagnosis, but that’s far away. The training data is not robust enough yet—we’ll need more clean data to make that happen. On the one hand, it will take time; but on the other, it’s becoming more robust because of better, cheaper computer power. That’s actually where we’ve seen the biggest jumps recently.”

Finally, AI holds considerable promise in an aspect of oncology that can be daunting for both the doctor and patient: deciding on exactly the right treatment strategy, especially as the number of therapeutic options continue to broaden. An AI-supported decision would take into account hundreds of data points (including genomic information) above and beyond the radiological data—and help doctors understand which patients might respond best to various therapies.

Again, the concept of deep learning is that, if you upload enough data, algorithms will start revealing patterns that humans don’t see.

Will AI replace radiologists? That is highly unlikely. A machine can’t look you in the eye and deliver good news or bad news or discuss options. Also, there is the issue of “machine drift,” a somewhat alarming phenomenon that results from the fact AI equates “the past” with “the future”—producing some weird results. In the end, AI is merely a medical device and a doctor needs to be on the interpretive end of things.

While many in the medical profession were skeptical when the role of AI was first being brainstormed, few if any need much of a push to recognize its potential anymore. There is still some natural trepidation, but the promise of being better and more efficient at what they do—and having back-up support driven by an ocean of data—is increasingly appealing.

In the meantime, AI developers will continue working with radiologists and others in the medical field to not only ensure that their products meet expectations, but exceed them.

Editor’s Note:

Dr. Albert C. Li is an Interventional Radiologist at Trinitas. He received his medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and has been in practice for more than 20 years. For LDCT screening appointments, call (732) 955-8825. University Radiology at Trinitas is located at 415 Morris Avenue in Elizabeth.


Growing Pains

Growing PAIns

And you thought arguing over screen time would be your ugliest child-rearing issue.

Imagine waking up one morning to find that almost nothing works. Your water and electric have been shut off. You pick up your phone to complain, but can’t get service and all of your contacts have been erased. Weirdly, you still have wifi. But that’s because your networked appliances may be plotting to kill you. Your car doesn’t recognize your key fob. Oh, and your bank account is empty. According to the critics of Artificial Intelligence—including the geniuses who created it—this is one version of the dark future that supposedly awaits us if we don’t get a handle on AI.

Is it safe to assume that keener minds than ours will work out ways to avert this disaster? Let’s hope so.

What you cannot assume is that the folks in the current mad dash to develop AI are paying attention to the impact it will have on child development and the endlessly tricky task of parenting.

Remember when you were a child and had an imaginary friend? Well, tomorrow’s toddlers are likely to grow up with an imaginary friend that will be all too real. Thanks to advances during just the past year in “large-language” artificial intelligence, any kid with access to a tablet, phone or laptop—and the blessing of his or her parents—will soon have a highly personalized AI “assistant” that will be conversational on a word- and concept-level that grows at the same rate as the child. Think of it as a juvenile version of Alexa, only infinitely smarter and more integrated into a young person’s life. It is a good bet that we will probably see yet another electronic device designed to make this relationship flourish. Maybe something dangling from a lanyard. Or perhaps a little robot that follows your child around.


There are numerous advantages to pairing a kid with an AI assistant. A child’s sense of wonder might be sharpened and accelerate with the help of a constant “companion” that explains or challenges or otherwise quenches his or her curiosity. These devices would educate, of course, but also be capable of spontaneous, creative play. An AI assistant could not only read bedtime stories, but could customize those stories for each child, embracing favorite themes or reinforcing lessons learned that day. The same device would also be smart enough to shield a child from inappropriate content, and weigh in on concepts such as good and bad and right and wrong. Parents would be able to control an AI assistant and set all kinds of parameters to ensure that their offspring grow up with the educational and cultural guardrails they choose. For tweens and teens, a trusted AI assistant could be helpful working through issues of social anxiety and depression.

Dating back a century to the early days of radio, American parents have proved all too eager to allow technology to “babysit” their kids. Now it’s smartphones. So there is unlikely to be much pushback from moms and dads, especially when the AI industry extolls the education virtues of its products. And there is zero chance that young children will turn down the opportunity to make a digital best friend. For parents worried that their offspring are already too wired, well, too bad—saying NO will feel like trying to hold back the ocean.

For the record, artificial intelligence has been with us—and we’ve been utilizing it—for more than a generation. It has steadily improved, which is partially the point of AI. What has changed is that mainstream AI—as evidenced by the release of GPT-4—has become significantly more “creative” in the past year. This had everyone excited initially but now has a lot of folks scared. And not without some justification. Yes, AI is designed to help us, not hurt us. But its evolving creativity introduces the possibility that the technology might look for creative ways to free itself from the parameters that programmers impose on it.

From a parenting standpoint, this is certainly a concern. However, from a child development perspective, there is a bigger question: Are the people racing to create AI assistants for kids actually thinking about what kind of adults these devices might create?

Making an imaginary best friend “real” unquestionably has its drawbacks. Children are already burying their heads in screens more than we’d like, so consider how attached they would become to something more engaging and interactive than an iPhone or iPad. Critics who warn that smartphones and tablets are fraying traditional family bonds worry, probably correctly, that an AI assistant might further isolate family members from one another and how that would play out down the road. And what about playdates, which are critical in social development? Parents might have to deactivate the devices to ensure that kids actually play. Because if they chose not to deactivate them, wouldn’t the two devices begin interacting with each other?


These are just a few of the top-line what-ifs that are being debated at this early stage of large-language AI. However, what we know about technology—particularly this technology—is that it does not roll out slowly. Current parents of infants and toddlers will be digesting the impact of AI assistants on their offspring in just a few years. Or maybe a few months. Will the child-focused products that hit the market be designed with the wellbeing of children as their top programming priority? Is there a long-term plan for how AI will develop as its young users do?

Some impressive organizations are weighing in on this issue. MIT ran a study during which it taught children of various ages to “teach” AI how to think like a child. The World Economic Forum has a robust “Generation AI” initiative aimed at maximizing learning opportunities and minimizing risks to children—including the Smart Toys award. UNICEF has an “AI for Children” project that is helping to develop policy guidance on this technology.

encouraging signs, to be sure. However, there is no easy way as a parent to wrap your mind around the role AI is likely to play in the years to come. Not even its most ardent proponents can say. Managing the technology in each household will be a challenge that is likely to make today’s “screen time” debates seem quaint a few years from now.

Hopefully, the I in AI—intelligence—will make this job easier.

Our kids already secretly think we are idiots and half-listen to what we say. But maybe their AI buddies will have no choice other than to become our parenting partners in positive and productive ways. Once that hurdle is cleared, then we can focus on our killer appliances.


Editor’s Note: The opening graphic for this story on page 51 was created by Craiyon when given the words “child, AI assistant.”


The Art of Intuition: Yolanda Navarra Fleming

Testify • 16” x 20” • Acrylic

Nineteenth-century French Impressionist artist Berthe Morisot created many portraits of her daughter, Julie Manet, 1878-1966. Julie was a painter, photographer, poet, model, and art collector. She also wrote about her mother in her diaries and belles-lettres. Similarly, my daughter, Yolanda Navarra Fleming, and I are painters, photographers, and writers who’ve inspired each other for decades, so the executives of Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, requested I feature Yolanda’s art in my column, Art Scene. For me, a longtime art critic for various publications, this assignment was at first intimidating. How to write about my daughter with the same mindset as I did for a multitude of other artists? Eventually, I realized a unique opportunity that would be an extraordinary pleasure.

Night Sea Crossing • 2021 • 12” x 36” • Acrylic on framed wood Crayon People • 2023 8” x

The Undoing • 2023 • 12” x 36” • Acrylic on canvas

Crayon People • 2023 8” x 10” • Mixed-media on canvas board

Valentine’s Day • 2022 20” x 20” • Mixed-media collage on canvas

Downtown Lemontree • 2022 18” x 24” • Acrylic on canvas

Inside the Beat • 2022 12” x 12” • Acrylic on canvas

Hidden Treasure • 2021 24” x 18” • Acrylic on canvas

The Itch of a Life Beyond • 2022 22” x 33” • Acrylic on framed canvas Winner of the Miguel Figueras Memorial Award for Fanciful Painting in the October 2022 Juried Show at the Guild of Creative Art, Shrewsbury, NJ

Poder de la flor • 2023 • 29” x 39” • Mixed-media collage on framed canvas


About the Artist

Fleming is an exhibiting member of the Guild of Creative Art in Shrewsbury and The Art Alliance of Monmouth County in Red Bank. Her third solo show of 2023 will hang at Middletown Public Library in New Monmouth, NJ in August. Visit YolandaFleming.com to see more work.


The director of marketing/public relations at Trinitas, Fleming, 54, is an Abstract Expressionist painter of Highlands, NJ, who claims she grew up on canvas—”home-schooled” by influence of the world. She creates complex, fiery and cool pieces the likes of artists Lee Krasner, Wassily Kandinsky, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and others. “I think painting is the most honest thing I do,” Fleming says. “All my work is about making the unconscious conscious. I intuit every color, stroke, and nuance, and I keep working until I recognize a complete thought, a story, or a revelation.” With awards and solo and group exhibitions under her belt, Fleming churns out works brandishing saturated, layered colors that remind one of alluring cocktails—cool-sea sapphire gin, candy-colored Pink Lady, maple-leaf-toned Campari and combinations thereof. Undulating color planes often injected with black sharp angles, bits of sheet music, or human eyes emerge from her canvases, making viewers’ senses and souls effervesce. Godspeed, daughter.

—Tova Navarra


Life-Saving Ride Along

Trinitas mental health screeners partner in a groundbreaking de-escalation program.


Ask any law enforcement professional what the most volatile response situations are and you’ll get a near-unanimous answer: mental health crises. They can go sideways in an instant, putting the well-being of officers and the individuals in distress at grave risk. Nearly a quarter of all people killed by police in America suffer from a known mental illness. They are far more likely to be injured in these encounters, too.

Existing research suggests that the presence of mental health professionals during a service call decreases the use of force and arrests, while increasing the use of mental health resources. In the spring of 2022, Trinitas helped put that research into real-world action when it joined a pilot program called ARRIVE Together, expanding an initiative that had begun in South Jersey to the cities of Elizabeth and Linden.

ARRIVE is an acronym for “Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence & Escalation.”

As part of the program, Trinitas has been providing certified behavioral health screeners to the Elizabeth and Linden police departments to respond to 911 calls involving mental health crises. The Trinitas screeners accompany plainclothes officers in unmarked vehicles on daytime calls, helping to defuse explosive situations and connecting those is crisis to appropriate mental-health resources. The program has already met its primary goal: to save lives and then start rebuilding them.

In recent years, police officers in New Jersey (and around the country) have found themselves increasingly having to deal with individuals in distress who have slipped through the cracks of social services, or whose conditions have worsened for myriad reasons, including stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Law enforcement training and experience covers these encounters to some extent, but it has become clear that a different type of “first responder” is often needed to ensure all-around safety and produce the safest outcomes.

In May 2023, the Brookings Institution released findings on ARRIVE Together, looking at data from more than 300 calls between December 2021 and January of this year—including critically important Officer Narrative Reports. Dr. Rashawn Ray, a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, joined New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin on a panel that included Lisa Dressner of RWJBarnabas Health, who is Vice President of the Department of Behavioral Health at Trinitas.

Among the more noteworthy data unveiled by Brookings was that arrests were largely avoided on ARRIVE Together responses, and that use of force was avoided, as well, in more than 97% of the ARRIVE Together calls.

“In addition, we did not find racial differences in the likelihood of being arrested or a use of force,” Dr. Ray points out. “That’s huge given what we know about racial disparities. This is extremely important and, I think, extremely uplifting in terms of what we might see moving forward.”

And move forward it will. In 2023, Attorney General Platkin expanded ARRIVE Together to additional municipalities, including Cranford and Roselle Park. In June, the program began to expand throughout Union County. Governor Phil Murphy has earmarked $10 million a year to support ARRIVE Together going forward.

“ARRIVE Together and specialized programs like this are critical in helping us to use best practices to most effectively respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis,” Dressner adds. “It helps people trust that they can call for help when they need it and to ensure that the people responding to these mental health emergencies have the training and resources available, and that they provide people with the support they need—also that, when people do have to come into the hospital to be evaluated or be admitted, that they arrive safely.”  



The Chef Recommends

EDGE takes you inside the area’s most creative kitchens.

Sonny’s Indian Kitchen Sonny’s Butter Chicken

225 Main Street • CHATHAM (973) 507-9462/9463 • sonnysindiankitchen.com

Sonny’s butter chicken is one of the best, delicious, smooth buttery and richest among Indian curries. It is made from chicken marinated overnight and baked in a clay oven then simmered in sauce made with tomatoes, butter and various spices.

— Chef Sonny


Krust Kitchen Philly Special

7 Cross Street • MADISON (908) 525-7878 • krustkitchen.com

A 12” x 18” Grandma style pizza with roast pork, bacon, sautéed broccoli rabe and our Midwest cheese blend. Chili flakes on request.




Common Lot Wagyu Beef Tartar

27 Main Street • MILLBURN (973) 467-0494 • commonlot.com

Our wagyu beef tartar is paired with a Singapore style pepper sauce, summer herbs and flowers and sea beans.

— Head Chef/Owner Ehren Ryan



Trattoria Gian Marco Calamari Toscano

301 Millburn Avenue • MILLBURN (973) 467-5818 • gianmarconj.com

Another delicious addition to our fabulous menu. Tender calamari fried and sauteed with cherry peppers, capers and kalamata olives in our plum tomato sauce.

— Chef Genero



PAR440 • Mahi Mahi

440 Parsonage Hill Road • SHORT HILLS (973) 467-8882 • par440.com

Pan seared Mahi Mahi with capers over broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes.

— Chef Pascual Escalona Flores



Galloping Hill Caterers

Galloping Hill Road and Chestnut Street • UNION (908) 686-2683 • gallopinghillcaterers.com

Galloping Hill Caterers has been an incredible landmark for over 70 years. We pride ourselves in delivering “over the top” cuisine, impeccable service and outstanding attention to detail. That is the hallmark of our success! Simply, an unforgettable experience. Pictured here is one of our crepes flambé that really creates lots of excitement!

— George Thomas, Owner


Limani Seafood Grill • Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass Barigoule

235 North Avenue West • WESTFIELD (908) 233-0052 • limaniseafoodgrill.com

A Provencal dish of artichoke hearts, crimini mushrooms, chickpeas, sauté garlic, parsley, minced shallots, roasted lemon potatoes, wilted baby spinach with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

— Chef/Owner George Vastardis



Welcome Back!

The restaurants featured in this section are open for business and are serving customers in compliance with state regulations. Many created special items ideal for take-out and delivery and have kept them on the menu—we encourage you to visit them online.

Do you have a story about a favorite restaurant going the extra mile during the pandemic? Post it on our Facebook page and we’ll make sure to share it with our readers!

EDGE is not responsible for any typos, misprints or information in regard to these listings. All information was supplied by the restaurants that participated and any questions or concerns should be directed to them.


The New Jersey Connection

All roads don’t lead to (or through) New Jersey. Sometimes it just seems that way. However, you don’t have to play the Six Degrees of Separation game to discover prominent historical figures with intriguing connections to the Garden State. It’s okay to stop at five:

Marion Trikosko

0 Degrees    Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King resided in Camden while a seminarian in Philadelphia from 1948 to 1951. On June 11, 1950, he and three companions were refused service at a restaurant in Maple Shade and were threatened with a gun if they didn’t leave. They stayed…in what might have been the future Civil Rights leader’s first act of courageous civil disobedience.



Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

1 Degree     Napoleon

Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, played an important role in his sibling’s European conquests and served as King of Naples, King of Spain and Lieutenant General of the French empire. He moved to America, sold the jewels he had spirited out of Spain, and purchased Point Breeze in Bordentown—said to be the second-finest house in America after the White House. His grandson, Charles Bonaparte, would become US Attorney General and create the forerunner of the FBI.



True Renditions LLC

2 Degrees    Marilyn Monroe

In 1954, the sultry actress married former Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio. When their nuptials were announced, the slugger received an offer he probably couldn’t refuse. Richie “The Boot” Boiardo—a huge DiMaggio fan and notoriously brutal Newark mobster—gifted Joe D. the diamond ring he slipped on Marilyn’s finger during their marriage ceremony. Boiardo is said to have been one of the inspirations for Tony Soprano. The ring’s original owner is unknown.

In the Godfather Garden




3 Degrees    Dwight Eisenhower

While enrolled at the US Military Academy, the future 34th President starred for Army’s powerhouse football team. In 1912, he ruined his knee against the Carlisle Indian School trying to tackle All-American Jim Thorpe. In 1951, the gridiron legend was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in Jim Thorpe, All- American. Two years later, Lancaster co-starred with crooner-turned-actor Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity, with both receiving Oscar nominations. Sinatra, of course, grew up in Hoboken.


Columbia Pictures




4 Degrees    W.C. Fields

Fields first shot to fame in the Ziegfield Follies, where he co-starred for several years with fellow comedian Eddie Cantor. As a child, Cantor had been part of a Vaudeville act called the Newsboys Sextet. One of the six “newsboys” was future newspaper columnist Walter Winchell, who many years later arranged the surrender of Murder Inc. boss Lepke Buchalter to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. One of Buchalter’s henchmen, already serving time in Sing-Sing for rubbing out his own brother-in-law, was Meyer Luckman—whose son, Sid Luckman, became a star quarterback for Columbia and an NFL Hall of Famer for the Chicago Bears. In 1939, after a sensational rookie season for Chicago, Luckman suited up for a playoff game in Schools Stadium as a member of the Newark Bears, who went on to win the American Football Association title.

Samuel Goldwyn Prod




5 Degrees    Machiavelli

Famed Italian political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli dedicated his seminal work, The Prince, to Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence in the early 1500s. Lorenzo’s daughter, Catherine, married Henry Duke of Orleans, who became Henry II, King of France. Using her powerful position, Catherine was the primary instigator of the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, a week of mob violence in Paris against French Huguenots. Among the many thousands killed was Petrus Ramus, a prominent humanist whose writings influenced Protestant philosophy in Europe and the American colonies. Ramus’s greatest proponent in the New World was Samuel Johnson, a key figure in the Enlightenment and the first president of King’s College, now Columbia University. Johnson’s successor, Myles Cooper, a clergyman born and raised in England, wrote passionately that the American Revolution was a mistake. In 1775, Cooper eluded an angry mob that planned to lop off his ears, and made it to a British ship that returned him safely to England. Legend has it that the crowd was distracted long enough for Cooper to escape by an eloquent young man named Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had recently finished his education at the Elizabethtown Academy in Elizabeth. Twenty-nine years later, Hamilton would lose a duel in Weehawken that cost him his life.




Gary’s favorites: My Music

With no more 80-hour weeks on the schedule, these artists will be on heavy rotation in Casa Horan…



Simon & Garfunkel










Harry Chapin

Grateful Dead

Pink Floyd



Gary’s favorites: My Movies

Movie night is now an actual thing in the Horan home. Here’s what’s on the Netflix marquee…


Lawrence of Arabia

The Shawshank Redemption

Shindler’s List


The Godfather Part I

The Godfather Part II


Citizen Kane



On the Waterfront


Melissa Rauch

EDGE Interview

Courtesy of NBC Universal

Revivals are money in the bank on Broadway. Not so much with television sitcoms. The skill and teamwork required to reinvent a beloved show like Night Court without losing its original mojo places incredible pressure on its producers and its stars. No one is betting against Melissa Rauch, who happens to be wearing a share of both hats on what has quickly become the top-rated new network comedy. She and Night Court original John Larroquette know a thing or two about what it takes to put a fine edge on an ensemble cast.

Melissa played sunny but tough-as-nails Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory, blending the voices of her parents growing up in Marlboro to create one of the most unusual and beloved TV characters of her generation. Now she plays Judge Abby Stone, daughter of Harry Stone, meting out justice to an endless stream of oddballs and miscreants, including Larroquette’s older (but not necessarily wiser) Dan Fielding. You can take a girl out of Jersey, but can Gerry Strauss to find out. you ever take Jersey out of a girl? It didn’t take long for Gerry Strauss to find out.

EDGE: If you magically had a free day back in New Jersey to do anything you wanted, what would you do?

MR: My gosh. Oh, this is so exciting. I love this question so much. Okay, let’s see…maybe start off for brunch at the Molly Pitcher Inn. That’s a very special occasion place. I’ve only been there once in my life. I think it was for Mother’s Day brunch years ago. Then I’d take a walk through Red Bank, which is one of my favorite things to do. Next, oh gosh, I’m trying to decide between Point Pleasant and Seaside, but I think I’m going to do both. I’m going to go to Point Pleasant first with the kids and walk along the boardwalk and do some rides. Then when we’ve gotten our fill of Point Pleasant, we’re going to go right to Seaside and do the same thing. Then I’m going to go crazy and head over to the Asbury Park Boardwalk. I’m just going to do a boardwalk day and get some lunch there, then hit up Moonstruck for dinner. Oh, wait, I didn’t go to the mall [laughs]. I gotta get to the mall before it closes. I’m going to go into my Freehold Raceway Mall and do some shopping there, take the kids on the carousel and then I’ll go to Moonstruck for dinner. Then I’m going to go back to a boardwalk and get some custard.

EDGE: I love that you took your kids to two different boardwalks and amusement parks and you still needed to fit in that carousel in the mall.

MR: It’s iconic! Oh wait! I gotta go to the Turtleback Zoo. We fed a giraffe there once, which was so exciting and it’s still talked about in this house. My whole family would be with me the whole day because that would just make it a dream.

EDGE: Growing up in Marlboro, what was your relationship with television comedy?

MR: It ran deep [laughs]. I loved nothing more than sitting with my family on the couch and watching a sitcom, and there was just so much comfort in that. I remember watching Night Court with my family and very vividly either my mother or father saying, “Cover her ears!” [laughs]. Of course, that made me even more interested in it. I remember laughing so much—even if things were going over my head—and then having these beautiful moments of heart that I really connected to. Even if I didn’t understand exactly what was going on, I knew that at that moment something important was happening. Mm-hmm. There was always laughing again very soon after, and I loved the fact that something in this little box in my living room could make me feel so much. Sitcoms were almost like my friends growing up, and I very much looked forward to getting my homework done so that I could hang out with my friends. It was just such a formative part of my childhood years, and even before I really knew that that was a job, I knew that it was something very exciting and interesting to me.

EDGE: It almost seems like destiny that you’d end up playing the role of Bernadette on one of TV’s most successful sitcoms of all time, The Big Bang Theory. Looking back at that show coming to a close, were you ready to move on, or was it a challenging transition?

MR: I loved how Big Bang ended and I thought the writers did a really beautiful job in having that come to an end in a really satisfying way. So I felt really good about moving on. It will always remain such an important part of my heart and my life, and I’m still eternally grateful for everything that it was. As far as figuring out what that next move was? I wasn’t sure in which direction I would go. I honestly didn’t think that it would be another sitcom. As much as I love them, I knew that I wanted to come back to it at some point— but I didn’t know that was the move that I was going to make. I’m so glad that it was Night Court ultimately, because I’m having so much fun doing it. It’s been such an incredible experience. But I didn’t really have a master plan by any means. It just fell into place and felt right at the time.

EDGE: When you are out and about in public, are there certain Big Bang episodes or lines that people repeatedly bring up to you?

MR: People do often ask for me to do the voice, or they’ll hear me talking [in my normal voice] and then say, “Oh, we thought you were someone else.” Then they move on [laughs]. Sometimes they’ll shout at my husband, “You’re not Howard!” I really love when people come up and talk about the Bernadette “entrance into motherhood” storyline. It was something that I was very proud of when we were doing it, and I love that the writers ventured into that territory. It was a very real depiction of early parenthood and also the phase during pregnancy where you have all these feelings that come up. I love that we tapped into it. Sometimes people come up and talk about that.

EDGE: How and why did Night Court become your next big project?

CBS Photo Archive

MR: You know, I originally was just going to be producing it, and that was very much my plan from the beginning. When I was asked if I was going to star in it, I’d say, “No, that’s not in the cards for this. I really want to be behind the camera on it.” As we were developing the script and I read the first draft, I thought, Oh my goodness, if I got this script—if it was just sent to me as an actor—I would be fighting to play this role and to be a part of this project. I was like, What am I doing, not putting myself in this role? Developing the project with John Larroquette was very much a dream come true, having been a fan of the show and his work on it for many years. I kept thinking about the person who was going to be lucky enough to get to do these fantastic scenes with him. I started realizing that I’d be kicking myself big time if I’m sitting behind the monitor watching this lucky person get to play this role. It just really started to feel like this was meant to be and this was the right move, so at the last minute I said that I was going to join…and I’m very, very glad I did.

EDGE: From conception to pitching to the network to production to broadcast, how long was the entire process that brought Night Court back to life?

MR: It was about three years, so it was quite a while. We started developing it before the pandemic and then we didn’t have our first meeting with John until after the pandemic. So that was all over Zoom, all over the phone. We pitched the show over Zoom and there were so many questions about whether people can be around each other and if we could have a studio audience because it was really the very beginning stages of lockdown. NBC came on board to do it and we developed the whole pilot during lockdown. Our audience was still socially distanced and masked and we had to limit them to 40 or 50 people. By the time that we were actually picked up, which was many months later, we were able to have a full audience, which was very special. So it was really quite a long road to get to this point, but it was a very gratifying one.

EDGE: With you and John coming into this project with plenty of success starring in popular ensemble comedies, were there any philosophies that either of you brought to the cast, based on your respective experiences?

MR: Ah, that’s a great question! I think there’s something common among multi-cam sitcoms, no matter when you do it, that you sort of speak the same language, because there is such a rhythm to it. There’s a rhythm to how the week goes. There’s a rhythm to how tape nights go. Whether it was the era that John did Night Court or we did Big Bang, it’s all sort of the same language, which is really exciting. John really sets the tone in how we all work together and how the week goes. I think we were both really looking forward to creating that workplace family, both off camera and on camera.

EDGE: What do you love the most about multicam?

MR: You get this week where you’re doing rehearsals together and you’re figuring out the pacing and where things are going to go. So it’s really like doing a play. You’re sort of like this little theater troupe that gets to bond and put on a show together every week. I love the camaraderie of a cast and getting to put something on its feet and getting to see material come to life over the course of a week. Getting to do that with John and our amazing cast has been a dream come true.

EDGE:A lot has changed in your life and career since you walked onto The Big Bang Theory set as the “new girl” in the cast. Now, you are a series lead, a TV veteran and a producer. Since day one of this show’s journey, have you felt comfortable being somewhat of an authority figure and leader on this show?

Courtesy of NBC Universal

MR: I feel like my authority comes into play in that I just want everyone to be terrified of me. [laughs] The Jersey comes out and no one is to look me in the eye. I feel like it really sets the tone if everyone is just constantly walking around with total fear and absolutely petrified! [laughs] I was very fortunate with Big Bang in that when I came into the cast in the third season, everyone was so welcoming. I was very grateful how they integrated me into the show, because it was done little by little and not forced on anyone. I think that was helpful, because I would’ve been mad at myself if I came in and ruined that show—especially as a fan of it. That welcoming environment was something that I definitely wanted to take with me, so coming from an ensemble and starting this new ensemble was really just about understanding that we are a team, which is something that’s super important to me. So even though I’m producing it, I really love working in a collaborative environment where everyone can feel welcome and heard. I don’t really see myself as an authority figure. Just a part of this new great team.

EDGE:I know you were joking about trying to scare everyone, but that response is the perfect reason why you pull off characters like Bernadette and Abby Stone so well. You have mastered the art of mixing your sweet, harmless exterior with that inner toughness and aggression that comes out when we least expect it. Is that another example of the Jersey Girl within?

MR: You know what? I cannot deny that. When it comes down to it, I am Jersey through and through, so I feel like my Jersey is always boiling right under the surface at all times.

EDGE: Like the Hulk!

MR: Exactly. [laughs] It’s very much a part of my DNA and I love the opportunity to unleash it whenever I can.

EDGE: What’s something you’d like to tackle that you haven’t gotten around to yet?

MR: You know what? I’d love to host Saturday Night Live. It would be such an honor, and I’d be that much closer to New Jersey. Put that on the list!   

Editor’s Note: Night Court airs Tuesdays at 8:00 pm on NBC and streams the following day on Peacock.


Net Results
The Chef Recommends

EDGE takes you inside the area’s most creative kitchens.


Sonny’s Indian Kitchen Sonny’s Butter Chicken

225 Main Street • CHATHAM (973) 507-9462/9463 • sonnysindiankitchen.com

Sonny’s butter chicken is one of the best, delicious, smooth buttery and richest among Indian curries. It is made from chicken marinated overnight and baked in a clay oven then simmered in sauce made with tomatoes, butter and various spices.

— Chef Sonny




Krust Kitchen Philly Special

7 Cross Street • MADISON (908) 525-7878 • krustkitchen.com

A 12” x 18” Grandma style pizza with roast pork, bacon, sautéed broccoli rabe and our Midwest cheese blend. Chili flakes on request.




Common Lot Wagyu Beef Tartar

27 Main Street • MILLBURN (973) 467-0494 • commonlot.com

Our wagyu beef tartar is paired with a Singapore style pepper sauce, summer herbs and flowers and sea beans.

— Head Chef/Owner Ehren Ryan




Trattoria Gian Marco Calamari Toscano

301 Millburn Avenue • MILLBURN (973) 467-5818 • gianmarconj.com

Another delicious addition to our fabulous menu. Tender calamari fried and sauteed with cherry peppers, capers and kalamata olives in our plum tomato sauce.

— Chef Genero




PAR440 • Mahi Mahi

440 Parsonage Hill Road • SHORT HILLS (973) 467-8882 • par440.com

Pan seared Mahi Mahi with capers over broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes.

— Chef Pascual Escalona Flores




Galloping Hill Caterers

Galloping Hill Road and Chestnut Street • UNION (908) 686-2683 • gallopinghillcaterers.com

Galloping Hill Caterers has been an incredible landmark for over 70 years. We pride ourselves in delivering “over the top” cuisine, impeccable service and outstanding attention to detail. That is the hallmark of our success! Simply, an unforgettable experience. Pictured here is one of our crepes flambé that really creates lots of excitement!

— George Thomas, Owner



Limani Seafood Grill • Pan Seared Halibut with Sun Dried Tomato

235 North Avenue West • WESTFIELD (908) 233-0052 • limaniseafoodgrill.com

Extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic, lemon juice, capers, white wine, parsley, served with roasted potato and garlicky green beans.

— Chef/Owner George Vastardis




Welcome Back!

The restaurants featured in this section are open for business and are serving customers in compliance with state regulations. Many created special items ideal for take-out and delivery and have kept them on the menu—we encourage you to visit them online.

Do you have a story about a favorite restaurant going the extra mile during the pandemic? Post it on our Facebook page and we’ll make sure to share it with our readers!

EDGE is not responsible for any typos, misprints or information in regard to these listings. All information was supplied by the restaurants that participated and any questions or concerns should be directed to them.