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Zoraida Rivera Joins Broadway Grille as Executive Chef

By Nancy Zeigler

She has sautéed with Alain Sailhac at LeCirque and parboiled with Jacques Pepin at the French Culinary Institute.  She has broiled, baked and braised for thousands of hungry customers at some of the top restaurants in the world.

But now she’s here.  Zoraida Rivera is cooking in Jim Thorpe.

Zoraida Chef at Broadway GrilleThe Broadway Grille & Pub in Jim Thorpe recently hired Zoraida as their new Executive Chef, and she’s already cooking up a storm, changing the menu and infecting the staff and customers with her passion for cooking and food.

So, how did a woman with such a rich history in New York’s culinary scene end up in the tiny town of Jim Thorpe, PA?

Born into a highly creative family in Puerto Rico, Zoraida always dreamt of cooking. “I think I was born with a skillet in my hand,” she said, laughing.  As a child, she collected recipe books and cooked for her family.  “My mom was a horrible cook, so I have no idea where this passion came from.  Certainly not from her,” she says, rolling her eyes.

After attending college in the States and getting her bachelor’s degree in communications, she moved back to Puerto Rico to work for Viacom.  Meanwhile, her passion for food tugged at her heart.  She had no idea one could attend culinary school to become a chef, because she didn’t even know such a school existed.  But when she found out, the proverbial light bulb went off.  That was it.  She quit Viacom, packed her bags, and headed to New York City.

Zoraida Chef at Broadway GrilleAfter getting a job as a grocery store cashier, she attended the acclaimed French Culinary Institute at night.  In the early days, her evening and weekend cooking and banquet gigs were supplemented by day jobs – including a stint as a Spanish and history teacher — so she could make ends meet in Manhattan. Eventually, she ditched the day jobs and moved further up the culinary ladder, working in big name places and under mentors from LeCirque, Lutèce, Water’s Edge, Windows on the World and Le Parker Meridien.

After the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11, Zoraida decided to move to quiet eastern Pennsylvania.  While living in Bushkill, she spent days exploring the back roads of her new home state and eventually stumbled upon Jim Thorpe.  “I fell in love with the town immediately. I couldn’t believe it. I said — this is where I’ve got to live. I wanted to be able to walk down the street for a newspaper or a cup of coffee, just like New York, and not have to hop in a car.  It was the perfect little spot.”  Months later, she bought a house in the historic district of town.

Zoraida Chef at Broadway GrilleAfter several executive chef positions in Pocono restaurants, she eventually settled into a corporate job with a huge food service and facility management company, where she managed multi-million dollar accounts.  “I enjoyed it and probably could have stayed there comfortably forever,” she said.  But that wasn’t to be.

A few months ago, her old friend Pat Cleary, the Broadway Grille’s General Manager, lured her into the kitchen, just to try things out.  She came in to do some prep work and check out the operation.  Suddenly, the old fire in her soul was burning again.  “I was shocked.  I thought – wow, I haven’t felt this way in a long time.  This is where I’m supposed to be.  Not at a desk, not ordering, not budgeting. Just cooking. This is what I’ve been missing.”

She decided to take the leap back into the kitchen.

It was a long, well thought-out decision.  “Every time I came here to the Broadway Grille, I felt really good.  I started thinking about what I could do here.  I said I’d have to be crazy not to take a chance.  I don’t want to be 80 years old with regrets, wondering –what if?”

“I kept thinking what my mentor, Jacques Pepin, drilled into my head. He said ‘stick to the basics, return to the basics.’  I had gotten away from the basics for so long.  It was such a joy to come back to just cooking.”

Zoraida Chef at Broadway GrilleAnd she’s cooking up a storm already at the Broadway Grille. She and the other kitchen staff are busy making their own creamy mozzarella that they infuse with herbs and other flavorings.  They’re curing wild salmon.  They’re making their own sausage, because they can’t find the exact flavors required for the dishes.  “I’m strong-minded and strong-willed in the kitchen,” Zoraida explains.  “At the end of the day, things have to be done right. It’s an art.  If it’s just a job, it shows.  Cooks have to cook with love.”

Zoraida’s passion has transformed the Broadway Grille’s new menu, which debuts over Memorial Day weekend.  “We’ve kept some of the favorites on our menu, but I’ve added quite a few new dishes, many of which will change seasonally,” Zoraida said.

“The new menu features tastes of places I’ve visited all over the world, such as a hibachi parrillada, which is an Argentinian-style mixed grill for two people.  It’s loaded with many kinds of meat and a chimichurri sauce.”  Other new menu highlights include a Z Maki sushi roll, martini ceviche mixto, salmon gravlax, chicken mango kebabs, vegetable curry, a new Mediterranean salad and antipasti, several new pasta dishes and entrees, new chicken wing sauces and a few new burgers.

“And, we’ve even added lobster to the menu, which will be available seasonally.  It’ll be alive when it’s delivered here, so you can bet it’s fresh!” Zoraida said.  “We’re also adding a few new sandwiches, wraps and cheese boards for late night dining at the bar after the kitchen has closed, which I know customers have asked for.”

The kitchen staff is excited to work with her, and Pat Cleary, the Broadway Grille’s General Manager, is thrilled to have her on board.  “She’s so talented, and she’s got such great energy.  It really is contagious. We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds since we opened, but Zoraida’s definitely going to take this place to a whole new level.  It’s really exciting.”

Zoraida Rivera’s got big dreams for the Broadway Grille.  “I want to put this place on the map.  I want to be on the TV shows, in the magazines.  I want it to be a destination restaurant.”

With an attitude, passion and talent like that, she can certainly make it happen.

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Over the past year, workers have been busy renovating and restoring the Inn at Jim Thorpe’s guest rooms, creating a luxurious, comfortable experience for everyone who spends the night in this famous Victorian hotel, and across the street at their new suites at 55 Broadway.

Inn at Jim Thorpe Room

Inn at Jim Thorpe

The newly-redesigned guest rooms convey a sense of the 19th century while providing the elegant amenities today’s travelers expect.

Wallpaper has been stripped, carpeting replaced and walls have been repainted in soothing colors.  New Victorian-style furniture has been added to many of the rooms, along with comfy duvets and covers, high threadcount sheets, pillow-top mattresses and an assortment of firm and soft pillows.  New wooden blinds and valances frame the historic windows.

The deluxe rooms and mini-suites have swanky new Keurig coffee makers, and all of the rooms boast flat-screen TVs.  Free wi-fi is available throughout the hotel.

Rooms at 55 Braodway - Inn at Jim Thorpe

Guest Suites at 55 Broadway

“The positive feedback we’ve been getting from guests has been overwhelming,” said David Drury, owner-manager of the Inn.  “We’re happy that they’ve been so responsive to all the changes.”

The Inn at Jim Thorpe truly does offer modern amenities along with its old world charm.  Come see for yourself, or check out www.InnJT.com.

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This winter, you can experience the excitement of Alaska dog sledding right here in Jim Thorpe, with the Inn at Jim Thorpe’s Sled Dog Adventure Package.

Ride along our area’s pristine wilderness trails on sleds, pulled by authentic sled dogs. It’s a fun adventure for everyone – best of all, you can ride with or without snow.

Sled dogsPackages include 2-night stay, breakfast daily, dog sled adventure and dinner one night.

The Inn offers 2 different sled dog packages:

The Training Run Package includes 1.5 hour training session – includes meeting the dogs, a short lesson on mushing, equipment orientation, and a 30-40 minute training run along scenic trails – either along the Lehigh Gorge rail trail or the Hickory Run State Park trail, depending on conditions. Starts at $195/weekdays; $219 /weekends.*

The Little Adventure Package includes advanced instructions including mushing commands and other skills, harnessing the dogs, working with different equipment, 1.5-2 hour ride through scenic trails – either along the Lehigh Gorge railtrail or the Hickory Run State Park, depending on conditions.

Starts at $235 weekdays; $259 weekends.*

*Sorry, sled dog packages are not available Dec 30, 31 and Feb 11, 12.

Call the Inn at 800.329.2599 or see www.innjt.com for reservations and details.

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Wise Crackers Comedy Club and the Inn at Jim Thorpe present their semi-annual Girls Night Out Comedy Show Saturday, November 20 at 9 pm at the Inn.

Featuring two of America’s best female comediennes, Tina Giorgi and Karith Foster, the show is guaranteed to keep everyone, including the brave men in the audience, in stitches.

Described by reviewers as “comedy with a brain,”  Tina Giorgi is a constant performer in New York and Las Vegas, appearing on the Late Show with Craig Kilborn, Comedy Central, her own radio show and much more.  A former teacher in DC’s inner city schools, Giorgi credits the hours she spent monitoring kids in detention for the beginning of her comedic inspiration.

“Her delivery was as dry as the perfect martini…but performed with high stage energy,” raved Backstage Magazine.

Karith Foster is best known for being Don Imus’ sidekick on his nationally syndicated Imus in the Morning radio show on WABC Radio.

Karith Foster

Karith Foster

She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, NBC’s Today Show and Last Comic Standing, VH-1’s Best Week Ever, Awesomely Bad and Black to the Future series. Her greatest triumphs include performing on Showtime at the Apollo and doing live audience warm-up for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Tickets for the show, which will be held in the Inn’s banquet room, are $12.  Call the Inn’s reservation desk to reserve: 800-329-2599 x 0.  For more information, visit www.innjt.com.

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The Broadway Grille & Pub, Jim Thorpe’s newest restaurant and bar, has finally opened its doors to the public after a 6-month renovation.  Located downtown at 24 Broadway, the front door is on the street, right next door to the Inn at Jim Thorpe.

 

Broadway Grille and Pub

Dining Room

 

The Drury family, the Inn’s owners, have given the restaurant and pub a complete facelift, infusing a hip, downtown ambiance into the space’s charming Victorian atmosphere.

Under the creative guidance of new General Manager Patrick Cleary, the kitchen features a big variety of reasonably-priced menu items that offer new twists on old standards, as well as delicious entrees, salads and sandwiches influenced by flavors from South American and Pan Asian cuisine.

Steaks, chops and seafood are char-grilled on the restaurant’s new hickory wood grill.  On Friday and Saturday nights, the Grille offers a special late night menu with sandwiches, salads, soups and snacks available till midnight.

The Grille offers the biggest breakfast menu in town, including everything from fluffy buttermilk pancakes to spicy huevos rancheros, plus a huge lunch menu featuring entrees, salads, daily specials and delicious desserts.

 

Broadway Grille and Pub

The Pub

 

An extensive wine list features vintages from around the world, available by the glass or bottle, plus a huge selection of beer, including many micro-brews and a special tap reserved for the Bethlehem BrewWorks’ popular suds.  Dozens of specialty cocktails and martinis – from Brazilian Caipirinhas to espressotinis – fill out the list.

The Broadway Pub hosts Happy Hour from 4:30 – 6:30 on Friday and Saturdays, with live music happening both days from 8 – 11 pm.

More details, including photos, menus and music schedule, can be found at www.broadwaygrillepub.com.  For reservations, call 570.732.4343.

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Everyone’s curious about how the Broadway Grille is going to look. Undergoing extensive renovation, the restaurant is coming together with some of the new colors, accents and other flourishes beginning to take shape. The attached pub, the former Molly Maguires, is also receiving much attention, and while maintaining it’s former reputation as a great place for locals and visitors from the attached Inn at Jim Thorpe to get together, it’s also receiving a considerable facelift.

Rumor has it that both establishments should be open by Memorial Day and include a late night menu (something greatly needed after Opera House shows). The regular menu is still under development but will apparently include a broad range of tasty items for any budget. So far, the details aren’t available, but we’re looking forward to the results.

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Ghost HunterDid you know that the Inn at Jim Thorpe is supposedly haunted? Find out more at the Inn at Jim Thorpe’s Ghost hunters Weekend from 10/20 to 11/1.

Over the past few years, many guests have reported strange, unexplained occurrences during their stays:  chairs have been turned upside-down during the night; objects have moved around; orbs and shadows have appeared in photographs; and small children have reported seeing ghosts sitting on their beds.

Are these stories true, or are they figments of the imagination, brought on my one-too-many cocktails at Molly’s?  We’ll never know.  But, given the Inn’s rich history, it’s not surprising that hotel guests share the place with generations of spirits.  Inn at Jim Thorpe

If you’d like to investigate these stories yourself, join the Philadelphia Ghost Hunter’s Alliance for a spooktacular weekend of ghost hunting at the Inn during Halloween weekend.  They’ll lead a ghost hunt through town, including the Old Jail, host seminars about paranormal activities, and much more.  Click here for details.

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