The enterprising North Jersey chef/restaurateur Ryan DePersio is known for Fascino in Montclair and Battello—two of NJM’s favorite restaurants—and Kitchen Step in Jersey City. Earlier this year, DePersio opened an outpost of Kitchen Step at Newark Liberty International Airport’s impressive new Terminal A. “I love the fact that our airport diners’ first or last meal in New Jersey is pure Jersey eats,” he says.
Why did you decide to expand Kitchen Step to the airport?
Actually, I was recruited! I was approached by Master ConcessionAir, a Miami-based international restaurant group. Their business model is to partner with known chefs who deliver consistent quality, and work with them to open their brand in area airports. The goal is to give passengers a local experience, not to mention good food. The company has a great reputation, and I loved the concept. We opened on January 15 of this year.
What sold you on the idea?
A few things. For one, I’m so proud of New Jersey’s fantastic dining, and I want everyone to know about it. So I was really excited. I felt that opening my homegrown Jersey restaurant in this sparkling, attention-getting airport would let travelers who don’t live and dine out here get a taste of the Garden State. It’s a really cool thing to represent that.
Also, Newark Liberty Airport is a local source of pride. Our Jersey airport has been at the forefront of making flying in and out of the New York area less stressful and more comfortable. To be a part of that appealed to me.
Are your Newark Liberty diners getting the original Kitchen Step experience?
Obviously, Terminal A isn’t Jersey City’s Van Vorst Park Historical District. But that’s our name on the sign, and a restaurant has got to deliver. Our airport customers get the same welcomes and personal service. And under executive chef Keyon Coleman, a veteran of Fascino and Battello, what we serve is completely Kitchen Step food.
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What’s the dining competition like in Terminal A?
I don’t see it as competition, but as variety. Just like on a Jersey Main Street, you can get everything there. But we’re the place in the terminal with real chef’s food and full restaurant service. Plus, we offer 200 seats and numerous dining areas, each with its own personality.
Because we’re open from 6 in the morning to 10 at night every day, we have a very broad menu. Although I consider our prosciutto and egg–based Italian breakfast sandwich an anytime treat.
Are passengers treating Kitchen Step like an airport lounge?
Some travelers are in a rush and have a quick bite or get a sandwich to bring onboard. Others are not in a hurry. I think that travelers are getting to airports earlier, so once they’re past security they have some real downtime. The travelers with a connecting flight or layover may have hours to wait. And how nice is it not to kill time in a plastic chair, but to relax in a real restaurant with not a single annoying TV screen, and enjoy a dish like our KS Burger, with caramelized onions, aged cheddar and smoked bacon?
Here’s something interesting: Some business-class passengers are choosing Kitchen Step over their airport lounge’s free chow. Our food’s a lot better, and our atmosphere much friendlier. People can sit at our full bar or our 20-seat circular counter and have a conversation.
Has Kitchen Step at Newark Liberty been a success?
We’re very, very busy, so yes. And for me, I love the fact that our airport diners’ first or last meal in New Jersey is pure Jersey eats from Kitchen Step.