"Am I really going to live in Jersey City?" Jason Hua, the executive chef at The Dutch, asked himself before moving from Manhattan. But after spending a day across the Hudson river in New Jersey's second most populous city, with its Brooklyn-resembling tree-lined streets and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and Ms. Statue of Liberty, you'll start to understand why.
Part of what attracted Jason to Jersey City is the wide open spaces. The triathalete-chef (yeah, there aren't many) wanted room to bike and jog, and where better than the green oasis that is Liberty State Park, just opposite Liberty and Ellis Islands. "I've found so many of my favorite places while running."
It didn't take long for the Los Angeles-born guy to find his Mexican food (at Taqueria Downtown), Kogi-esque Mexi-Korean fusion (at Kraverie), and soup dumplings (at Grand Sichuan; he's a first-generation American to Shanghainese parents).
Since high school, Jason knew he wanted to be a chef. While a student at Boston University, he picked up a copy of Gourmet's then issue of 50 Best Restaurants in America, and zeroed in on Clio in Boston—not a bad place to start his career. After working under Ken Oringer at Clio (flash forward to this year: you can see Jason cooking at Clio's 15th anniversary dinner with many other chef alums), Jason moved to New York to work at Jean Georges for four years, then Boqueria and Fiamma Osteria, and finally at The Dutch, where he's been the executive chef since the restaurant opened in 2010.
After our crawl around SoHo with Andrew Carmellini, the Dutch's chef-owner, we heard Jason lived in Jersey City and would be down to spend one of his days off showing us his favorite spots in his hood.
Our Jersey City Stops
We hopped on the Path train to meet up with Jason. "I ride my dirt bike over the GW Bridge instead of taking the Path," said Jason...Yeah well, we'll stick with the commuter train.