Chef Michael Shinholster is used to cooking for NFL athletes and executives. But for the Nine Days, he’ll be cooking at Sender’s Smoke Joint in Teaneck. “The Jewish community is looking for items that wow them,” said Gabe Gilbert, partner and chef at Sender’s, in a phone interview together with Shinholster. “I had the idea to bring my friend Michael in to make exciting, creative food that most of us haven’t tasted before.”
Gilbert and Shinholster sat down together and planned a pareve specialty menu in addition to the usual pareve and meat items at Sender’s. “I gave Michael the rundown of the Nine Days, what we can and can’t have, and we came up with a menu showcasing nice fish and vegetable dishes that aren’t too expensive but with a culinary spin.”
Shinholster described some of the special items he’s planning to make: Jerk Red Snapper, Branzino Mediterraneo, Blood Orange and Mango-Glazed Grilled Salmon, Red Snapper Fish Tacos, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Scalloped Potatoes with (faux) Cheese Sauce.
“I like a challenge,” said Shinholster, “So I’m happy to do this with my friend Gabe.”
Sender’s signature flavors will be infused into some of the new dishes. “We can’t use the smoker with fish but we can use the wood fire grill,” said Gilbert. “Our salmon will have that smokehouse feel.”
Shinholster prepares buffets for the NFL players and corporate events. He’s learned to cook a wide variety of dishes and accommodate the nutritional requirements and taste preferences of each player, in consultation with the coaches, nutritionists and club cooks.
“The players will call me up and say, ‘Mike I want this protein or this grain, and I make it happen,” he said.
Coming to Teaneck is full circle for Shinholster. He got his start as a chef at the Marriott Hotel before being introduced to various NFL coaches who asked him to cater their meals. Gilbert and Shinholster met through social media, which has become fertile ground for networking. Shinholster was attracted to Gilbert’s smoked brisket.
If you want to find Shinholster on Instagram, he’s @Chef_Bean_. Where did Bean come from? As a child his sister called him Bean Head and he adopted the nickname. “Like a skinny string bean,” he said. Skinny? A chef? What is his secret? “24/7 fitness,” he replied, in a lesson for us all. Sender’s is on Instagram @Sendersnj and online at www.sendersusa.com.
Sender’s Nine Days menu will be available for takeout and delivery. Dine outside at picnic tables behind the restaurant or on the West Englewood Avenue dining plaza. With much uncertainty about the coming NFL season, the players are all over the world now, at home or vacationing. They keep in touch on social media, though, and Shinholster has heard from many that if they are in the area, they’ll stop by. So you could be enjoying grilled salmon near one of your favorite athletes. Just remember not to get too excited and keep your social distance.