FORT LEE, N.J. — Ask Bing's Burgers Fort Lee Head Chef Jonathon Tinari how he got his start in cooking and he'll take you way back to before he was alive.
Back to before he opened Zinbuger at the Garden State Plaza. Back to before he learned the grind at Brooklyn hot spots and back before the days of working at his mother's restaurant, Just Janice, a Ho-Ho-Kus establishment.
Tinari of Ridgewood, affectionately known among friends as "Jonny Details," will tell you about his ancestors — the Italian immigrants who brought their passion for good, fresh food with them to New York City.
Cooking, Tinari explained in his Bronx accent, is simply in his blood.
"It was a crazy family," he said with a laugh, "but food was big and important. Everything came from the garden."
Even more than a chef, though, Tinari is a creator. His arms boast tattoos — his left a design of his own. In his free time, he makes music.
Tinari is also the mastermind behind the new menu at Bing's Burgers, which he revamped with original items when the place was bought out in April.
Bing's has had hundreds of customers come in for the taste of Tinari's viral sensation — the Southern Burger — a battered, breaded and deep-fried 8-ounce burger, topped with bacon and Swiss cheese, served between two waffles and sprinkled with powdered sugar and maple syrup.
Tinari also invented the Cinnamon Raisin-Bagel Pudding Slice shake, when he realized that many of the cinnamon raisin bagels next door at Binghamton Bagel were being thrown away at the end of the day.
The chef never imagined he'd be making concoctions like these, he said. But they seem to be a hit.
"The bites, for example, the mac & cheese bites," Tinari said. "I'd never serve bites in my life. But I have a great mac & cheese recipe, so we kept that."
What's most important to Tinari is that his loved ones are happy and satisfied.
"It's important to serve the people we care about," he said from Bing's kitchen, chopping up lettuce for a Southern Burger.
The birth of Tinari's son was ultimately what pushed him to return to New Jersey five years ago after years of working at New York City restaurants.
He hopes to pass down his family's appreciation for good food.
"Even at the grocery store, he watches me as I move," Tinari said. "And right now he doesn't care about food all that much, but one day it's going to be a gift to him."
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