Feed This Community

Feed This Community Spotlight: Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Action And The Beach


It’s a beautiful (albeit, brisk) spring day here in Asbury. I get the privilege of looking out the restaurant window and seeing the ocean’s waves crashing on a tan and beautiful shoreline here in Asbury Park. As I prepared today’s blog, I got to reflect on a time when I would have looked out onto Asbury’s shoreline and seen something very starkly different. I’ll tell you all about that today as I highlighting another amazing organization that I’ve chosen to donate to as part of the purchase price of my cookbook, Feed This Community (You can pick up your copy here).

 I’m grateful for the chance to tell you all about the amazing work and living legacy of Clean Ocean Action. Clean Ocean Action is an organization that is dear to my heart, not only because it’s creation and timeline mirrors my own culinary and event-planning growth, but because the organization is active in its efforts to protect our shorelines and water. I truly believe that I wouldn’t be looking out onto that pristine beach right now if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of Clean Ocean Action.

The Origin of Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Action was created by Cindy Zipf in her living room around the time I began my adventure in the culinary world. At the time, I was working at Oshin and Clean Ocean Action had its kickoff party at the restaurant (which was located inside a dive shop in Avon). I was waitressing in the restaurant that year and so Cindy and I connected. She was driven, passionate, and thoughtful. We were both passionate about the work that Clean Ocean Action was doing and I was excited to help in my own way as well. 

Around that time, I started to work for COA to lead fundraisers and plan and execute bigger events for them. There was one time that remains in my memory even in this moment. It was an amazing evening for an event. We’d invited people to buy tickets for an event on a boat so that the funds could go to Clean Ocean Action. We’d chartered a boat going out of The Highlands with food, music, dancing, and drinks. The boat traveled out of port and went around the New York area, up the Hudson. It was quite an evening. Those in attendance got to connect with one another, enjoy delicious food, and take in beautiful views. They also got the added bonus of knowing that their ticket price included a donation to an amazing organization.

 Clean Ocean Action raised a great deal of money that evening and a great time was had by all.

I’d say that was my first major dive into marrying food, fun, and awareness to raise money for organizations who were doing work in the world that I truly believed in. It’s easy to forget, because we live in a world of fundraiser events, but back then this combination of raising money and holding an event alongside one another was a new approach. It was also my first real event job and I can’t think of a better way to begin that adventure because I was (and remain) so passionate about Cindy, Clean Ocean Action, and their mission.  

Coming Together For Clean Oceans And Shorelines

When Clean Ocean Action began, it was a time along our coast where there was on-going horrible toxic dumping.  One summer, there were people in hazmat suits patrolling the beaches and testing fecal and medical waste in the water and along the shoreline. People, tourists included, couldn’t go into shark river, the beaches closed, and for a time tourism essentially died. People finally became angry. The community really got lit up and environmental groups got involved including Clean Ocean Action. People collectively realized that the dumping was killing our ocean and that the off-shore dumping had polluted coast so badly. I was among them and began getting involved with organizations, of which I’d say Clean Ocean Action was one of the pioneers, to protect coast. Cindy and the organization traveled to fight against off-shore dumping in DC and the work of Surfrider and Clean Ocean Action shaped how people worked to protect coast.

Advocacy, Tourism, And The Common Good

Organizations and the people who supported them through advocacy and action no longer let government structures and politicians slide on things that mattered when it came to the safety and cleanliness of our ocean and shoreline. It was as simple as it was revolutionary: We’re in this together. No one wants a polluted ocean, a hazardous shoreline, dead fish washing ashore, or to tell their children that this is normal. It was not normal. It was not acceptable and that remains true even today.

Clean Ocean Action works with fishermen, tourism organizations, and surf organizations to educate and to communicate the importance of the coast to the enjoyment, livelihood, and wellbeing of all people.  

The Future of Our Oceans And Shorelines

Nowadays, I’d love to say that the troubles of that era are behind us. But that’s just not the case. There is still work to be done and Clean Ocean Action is still making that work happen. Cindy is a mentor of mine, a leader, and a fiercely strong woman who put herself out there when people weren’t fighting for the coast on the grassroots level. She built Clean Ocean Action in that way and has been activating and empowering people in that way each day.


As for me, I am just as committed to their cause and just as full in my support for their work as I help in whatever way I can.  Any time Clean Ocean Action wants to do a press conference they tend to do it at Langosta Lounge and the organization also held their 25th anniversary at the restaurant when it first opened. My twenty-fifth year of as a chef was also my twenty-fifth year working with Clean Ocean Action and the adventure in actively defending our ocean and shoreline continues.

Looking For Some Next Steps

  • To learn more about Clean Ocean Action or to get involved, click here

  • To pick up your copy of my cookbook and donate to amazing organizations like Clean Ocean Action, click here


Feed This Community Spotlight: Lakehouse Music Academy

Lakehouse Music Academy In The Spotlight

Hello again everyone! Today I wanted to share with you a bit about one of the organizations who will benefit from sales of my cookbook, Feed This Community (You can pick up your copy here ) Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park is more than a place to take music lessons, it truly is a music movement in Asbury. It’s helmed by the incomparable Jon Leidersdorff and I’m so grateful to be able to share a bit about Lakehouse and all that they do in the community.

Lakehouse Music Academy And Asbury Park

In starting Lakehouse Music Academy, Jon Leidersdorff took a leap of faith and started a movement. There is no doubt that Asbury Park New Jersey has a music connection unlike any other. At the same time, when Jon launched Lakehouse there was nothing in town that did for music what I was working to do with food: transform community from inside out.

Of course, there were so many musicians who were either from Asbury and coming to the city to see or play concerts and shows. The people were there and so the question was, “How do you connect these musicians and music lovers to the community and attract musically passionate people of all kinds, of all ages and interests?”  That’s the question that Jon answered in creating and helming Lakehouse.

Lakehouse does more than offer a place to play around musically, to sing or to go to shows. It certainly makes those things possible but it also created a center for talent and passion, a magnet for those who felt pulled toward creativity, music, and community.

Fire Jam Hockey Rocks!

Full disclosure, two of the adorably talented tikes in Lakehouse’s Fire Jam Hockey are my daughters (And yes, they and their two bandmates picked the band’s name themselves!).  I’ve seen the confidence building, fear facing, and creative discipline that my daughters continue to learn from being students at Lakehouse and so I know first-hand the impact of the work that Jon and his team do. My girls play the Big Gig, which is a concert put on by groups of students who become bands. They study together and perform 2x a year at real music venues in Asbury Park. The young students get the experience of the big gig and it’s an awesome teachable moment for parents and guardians to share with their kids. I remember a really poignant conversation with my daughter Hari before the most recent Big Gig. She was having a hard time and didn’t want to go back to the stage. I got to connect with her and let her know, “You’re going to feel empowered each time you go up there.” I smiled at her and reminded her, “The first time is only the first time.” She and the rest of Fire Jam Hockey rocked that show, of course. 

The Lakehouse Effect

Lakehouse allows its students to fill themselves with the energy of others, to feed off of the energy of bandmates and the audience, to face and feel the butterflies, to confront the feeling of “less than”, and to rise and grow in new ways. Jon and his team provide opportunities for challenge, for growth, for feelings and nerves. But afterward, it is a high and it is pretty darn amazing. The Lakehouse captures that same energy in how they curate and run the school itself and the building which the studio calls home.

LakeHouse And The Asbury Park Music Foundation

Aside from the adrenaline and growth fostered in lessons, band practice, and Big Gig experiences, Lakehouse’s non-profit, partners with Asbury Park Music Foundation and is active in the community. Lakehouse has a Hip-Hop Bus fitted-out with the latest technology. This bus goes to the local Boys and Girls Club, for example, and teaches kids there things like concert lighting, sound, and tech. This is an awesome opportunity for people different abilities and the same love of music to be involved in the music creation and performance process.

Behind The Scenes And In The Spotlight

We may know that there are many people involved in the orchestration of the music, from producers to lighting techs. What sets Lakehouse apart is that Jon and his team give young people in the community, who may not have exposure to these sorts of things, the chance to explore these things in a very real, very powerful way. Young people in Asbury Park are no longer on the sidelines of the music in their town because of a lack of confidence, exposure, or financial resources: They are an active and meaningful group of contributors to that music culture. The music comes to them and they, in turn, become a part of the music.

Music Culture And The Future of Asbury Park

Jon and his team have truly become stewards of music culture and creativity in Asbury Park and have brought about meaningful change in regard to how members of the community interact with and access music and music education. One of the big reasons I selected Lakehouse as one of my organizations to donate to through the cookbook is because I draw distinct parallels between what I do for food and what Jon does for music. In each of our approaches to our passions we choose to act in a social conscious, community-focused manner.

Jon’s brought music education to the people of Asbury Park and has knocked down barriers of all kinds in order to ensure more equitable access to a key facet of the city’s culture. When I reflect on my own work with Food For Thought By The Sea, I note that I’ve worked to do the same thing for food and hospitality. In my blog about Kula Café (read it here) I also explore how that venture has given Interfaith Neighbors and I the opportunity to address a need in our community as well. What I’ work to do for food, I believe Lakehouse works to do for music and that is a beautiful, powerful passion that Jon and I share for the people, culture, and future of Asbury Park.

Looking For Your Next Set List?

  • To learn more about Lakehouse, click here .

  • To pick up your copy of my new cookbook and contribute to amazing organizations like Lakehouse, click here .


Feed This Community Spotlight: Kula Cafe And Kula Urban Farm


Kula, Ideas, And Community Transformation

Have you ever had a thought, idea or dream, that just would not cease to pull at your heart, drawing you in? It’s filling you with passion, determination, creativity, and fulfillment, even if it doesn’t even exist yet? That’s how I felt about the Kula Café and I can’t wait to describe the Café and its work to you today.

Several years ago, I went to my friends at Interfaith Neighbors and I told them that I had the idea to do training café for front of house work. I’d seen that young adults in our community didn’t have opportunities to work in restaurants. At that time a lot of restaurants were opening and this meant great job opportunity, if young people had the confidence and training in hospitality.

The Empowering Experience Of Training And Working In Hospitality

I am a firm believer in the power of training people in the work of hospitality because it can build confidence, communication skills, and leadership skills. It’s been my experience that if you can communicate in a way to makes people feel good you’re going to find success in what you do. Training in hospitality offers access to a great skill set where people learn to manage themselves in a business, acting a sort of independent contractor in the moment. You have your section, your tasks, and you’re running that part of the business in that moment. I feel that if young people learn these skills they will learn to feel good about themselves and they will then take that into whatever career they pursue. Whether they work in retail, in an office, in a warehouse, in a school, they can take those skills, those abilities, and that confident communication, into that job and create success.

Coffee, Hot Chocolate, And The Common Good

When I had the idea for Kula Café, I found that there was not much of that front-of-house training, at least not in my neighborhood. I also knew that, while I loved cooking, not everyone wants be a cook and that is a different skillset all together.

When we began, Interfaith Neighbors and I went out into the community to give coffee and hot chocolate to people and businesses in town. The next step was to want to have people in community give to community.  There was a good deal of gang activity in Asbury but when the hot chocolate and coffee came by, people of every walk of life would come together to share a cup.

 This became a time where we realized we all wanted the same things, we just went about them in different ways. Someone might not want to interact with different gangs but both parties want a cup of coffee. So, for a time they’re willing and able to share that space with people whose experience is different than their own. This kind of community effort brings different people together. After the coffee and hot chocolate experience, Interfaith loved the as-yet-unnamed-idea and took it on. 

Asking “What’s Next?” And Answering In A Big Way

I had just left politics, and my husband Scott and I discussed the next chapter of our personal lives (Do we want kids? Do we want to move? What’s next?)

For me, travel has always been something I love and I’d always wanted to go on a women’s surf meditation trip. It just so happened that one was available and affordable at that time and so I went to Maui on a retreat that was sponsored by the surf brand Carve.

I was there. I was soaking in the Maui sun and so I headed to our first meditation. The topic of that first meditation was on the idea of Kula. Kula is the Hawaiian concept of a community of the heart (We wrap around our community with a passion for that community.) I loved my surf retreat experience (To read more about it, click here ) and returned to Asbury Park with a revitalized spirit, and a name for this place for Interfaith Neighbors: We decided to call it Kula Café.

Kula And Community Impact

 I know it’s not a Jersey word, but it is a beautiful word and a beautiful representation of what Kula offers the community and its people. Kula Café empowers the community grow, to strengthen itself, and to believe in itself.

The Kula Café has since been joined by Kula Urban Farm (right beside The Kula Cafe) where greens, microgreens, and edible flowers are grown. They’re then sold and delivered to local restaurants. Kula Urban Farm offers access to locally grown organic produce. The Farm’s work means that more people in the community are involved in knowing where their produce comes from, how it feels, and perhaps even what it means to want to pursue a career in some form related to that sort of work.  

This work may mean that people, who may not otherwise be exposed to such things, might explore careers in urban farming, horticulture, landscaping, and other related areas. The Café and The Farm are giving the people of Asbury Park the opportunity to discover passion they may not have been Intune with otherwise.

Igniting Passion Through Experience

Thinking about Kula Café And Kula Urban Farm brings me back to the first time I ever cooked at Oshin. It’s an understatement to say that something was just ignited in me. I know that it was a transformative moment and yet, I am also aware that we don’t always know where that passion will come from. Exposing community youth to new things will be of benefit to them because they will have the opportunity to explore things, all sorts of things:  From the beach, to business, to the chance to find desire in ways that were not always full available to the prior generation. When we find ways to provide these opportunities we give everyone in our community a way to look forward to what lies ahead.

A Leap Of Faith And The Kula Movement

Kula Café brings in a youthful demographic to explore something that excites and inspires them. The Café is a new, stable, and grounding place for the west side of Asbury.

This area is also experiencing the development of new gardens, parks, and affordable housing. It’s a transformation that has just begun with Interfaith Neighbors taking on this project and taking on this corner of the community.  Interfaith’s work, and my own, has convinced me that it only takes one person or group to take that leap of faith and hope that others follow.

That leap of faith, when made with amazing partners like Interfaith Neighbors, creates a movement.

Kula is The Café.
Kula is The Movement.

What’s Next?

  • To learn more about Kula Café and Kula Urban Farm, click here

  • To learn more about Interfaith Neighbors, click here

  • To pick up your copy of my new cookbook and support amazing organizations like Interfaith Neighbor’s Kula Café And Kula Urban Farm, click here



Feed This Community

Feed This Community

We can foster good in our communities with small, selfless, and charitable acts. And today I invite you to grab your cookbook and put your charitable kindness into action too!

Feed This Community: The Organizations Receiving Book Sale Donations

Feed This Community: The Organizations Receiving Book Sale Donations

Today I’d like you to meet the organizations with which the sales price of my book will be shared. These organizations offer so much time, attention, service, kindness, and support to their local communities and supporting them is a small way to give back a piece of what they’ve offered their communities and the world. It's an awesome honor to give back and I invite you to do the same.