I’m a personal chef and caterer based in Mahwah, NJ. I’m mildly obsessed with food, dogs, reading, and my family. You can find my weekly soups and family meals, as well as my grazing tables and catering options @chefadriennecirillo
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your family.
I live with my talented and funny husband, my three awesome stepchildren, and Jinx, the best dog who has ever lived. We also have a hedgehog, but he’s not as fun as the dog or the kids.
Q: Please tell us about your current career. What do you love most about what you do?
Growing up, my parents both worked long hours in offices. My father had a 4 hour commute to NYC from where we lived on the Jersey Shore and my mother’s position in accounting often kept her late. My parents would feel bad that we ate out at restaurants so often, or got takeout or fast food. By doing what I do, I am able to give families real dinners, like they would make if they had the time. Nothing is more special than giving parents time to spend helping with homework, playing a game, or just relaxing instead of feeling pressured to cook a meal. My mother tells me all the time how she wishes she’d had someone like me to cook when I was a kid. I’m giving people healthy, delicious food they can feel good about eating, but I’m also paving the way for families to have more quality time. That’s really special for me.
Q: What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in our community?
There are so many great, family-owned restaurants around here! We love Tawara and Tawara Mart in Ramsey, Cafe Panache in Ramsey for special occasions, El Azteca in Mahwah has great Mexican food, and we live right next door to Novino, which has great pizza but also does so much for the community. We also like to treat ourselves to the amazing pastries from Bobo Z Bakery.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in our community?
I’ve lived in Mahwah for about 7 years.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in our community?
I admire Craig Kunisch of Mahwah Bar and Grill a lot. I worked there briefly and he is a great restaurant owner, but more importantly, he and his family do so much for the local community and charities. I find their fundraising and sponsorship admirable.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I guess I should say on a beach with a pina colada in hand after this year, but I’d have to say France. My father took me to Paris when I was 21 and I was not a very adventurous eater then. I’d love to just tour France, tasting everything I can and walking it off between meals!
Q: What is one of your favorite movies? TV shows?
The Florida Project was one of the most recent movies that stays with me. I watch a lot of terrible reality shows (shhh) but my favorite show to relax with is the Great British Bake-off. That show is like a warm hug.
Q: What advice would you give to people?
If you see a chance, take it. Don’t let let fear or anxiety stop you. Four years ago, I saw a post in a local moms’ Facebook group asking for someone to cook their family meals every week. I responded, even though I had doubts if I was good enough. Now, this is my job: doing what I love, helping people eat better, catering for parties of 200. If I hadn’t clicked reply, I would never have this pride and satisfaction I get from a day well cooked.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
Seeing the Northern Lights. I got a glimpse once at a Phish show in very northern Maine and I’d love to experience them at peak.
Q: What is your go to band when you cant decide what to listen to?
Vampire Weekend is always a good idea.
Q: What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community?
We love Janek’s. We live around the corner and it’s like a step back in time going in there. I love that they still make kielbasa the way they have for generations and their breakfast sandwiches are heaven on a Saturday morning.
Q: If you could choose anyone that is alive today and not a relative; with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? And where locally would y’all meet for this lunch?
Who could I say except Dolly Parton? I’ve loved her since I was a kid and her attitude is just amazing. She is an advocate for so many and her free book program inspires me. I’d make her fried chicken, potato salad, and cornbread and have a picnic at a local park.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
When I first moved here from NYC, I was worried because there isn’t a real downtown like so many other towns. However, since I’ve moved here, I’ve seen such a sense of kindness and giving in Mahwah. During quarantine, a local mom put up a post offering free yeast for baking from her front porch. When my 1 pound bag of yeast finally came from Amazon, I did the same. Even though we are spread out more, this is a “borrow a cup of sugar kind of town” and I love that!
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
I hope to open a storefront for my business offering sandwiches and also a larger scale of what I currently offer. Real, honest food made from whole ingredients that people can feel good about bringing home for dinner.
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I am not superstitious and am a bit of a skeptic, but I make a wish on the constellation Orion whenever I see it. We only see it for part of the year, but I’ve been doing it since my dad first pointed it out to me when I was very little.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
The Baths at Virgin Gorda in the BVI. It’s like The Goonies meets the Caribbean.
Q: Favorite month? favorite holiday? and best single day on the calendar?
September. Christmas and Christmas.
Q: What would you rate a 10 out of 10?
Misen Knives. They are a combination of German and Japanese steel, they’re inexpensive, and they feel great in your cutting hand.
Q: Who inspires you to be better?
My stepchildren. I hope that I am leading them by example and I try to live my life in a way that will inspire them, as well.
Q: What is one or two of your favorite smells?
The ocean and sautéing onions.
Q: Finally, what 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
Hugs. Laughter. Comfort.