Stockton Restaurant RSC Throwing Seafood Smackdown

Oysters and wine at RSC in Stockton

Many rising chefs would be thrilled to cook under a well-known executive chef. But Alida Saxon, 39, and Paul Mitchell, 50, grew tired of following other people's recipes. After gaining experience in a variety of kitchens, they opened their own 12-seat restaurant and takeout shop, RSC, in scenic Stockton, just north of Lambertville. RSC celebrates its third anniversary this weekend (June 15–18) with a four-day seafood feast called Seafood Smackdown. We recently spoke to Alida and Paul about their origin story, menu and more. [caption id="attachment_309934" align="alignright" width="350"]Chefs Alida Saxon and Paul Mitchell at their restaurant, RSC, in Stockton Chefs Alida Saxon and Paul Mitchell are passionate about cooking their own recipes. Photo: Courtesy of Alida Saxon[/caption] Please introduce yourselves to our readers. Alida: I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania and have been a professional cook since I was 17. I worked mostly in Pennsylvania and Portland, Oregon, where I met Paul. We’ve been together since 2014. Paul: I’m from Massachusetts and earned an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia. I started my cooking career in Princeton; next, Philly, and then Portland. What’s your anniversary celebration, Seafood Smackdown, about? Alida: Summer is when we started [the restaurant], and summer in New Jersey is always a celebration. And, well, [it's about] us and seafood. Paul: We wanted to shake things up with a more casual seafood menu and extended hours. People can order dishes for takeout or eat in. We can’t take reservations, though. Seafood Smackdown runs from this Thursday, June 15, through Sunday, June 18—noon to 8 pm on Saturday, and noon to 7 pm on Sunday. What’s RSC’s origin story? Alida: We’d both worked endless hours in sweaty, cramped restaurant kitchens, following someone else’s recipes. We both reached the point of: I can’t do this anymore. We wanted to open our own place and cook our own menu. Paul: That’s every chef’s dream—no one telling you what to do. We were determined to make it happen. I moved from Portland to New Jersey in 2012, and Alida in 2014, to cook at a restaurant in Rosemont. When it closed, we kept on cooking in the area. Alida: In 2016, friends of ours convinced us to do monthly private dinners on their property in Rosemont. We called ourselves Rosemont Supper Club, which later became just RSC. We’d max out at 50 diners, and also catered private dinners in people’s homes. Paul: We were in demand. Alida: After a while, we got our own space here in Stockton with the plan of opening a one-room chef’s table. [Then] the pandemic came, and we pivoted to takeout of our house-made dishes and condiments, plus high-end packaged foods. We called the shop Atelier, and it’s still part of RSC. Paul: People around here are well traveled and sophisticated. They value good food and like to have wine with dinner. They know how special it is to have a neighborhood BYO with two experienced chefs in the kitchen. [caption id="attachment_309938" align="alignnone" width="778"]RSC's cozy 12-seat dining room RSC is located in a gas-station complex—but you'd never know it once you're inside the cozy, 12-seat dining room. Photo: Courtesy of Christian Gianelli/Gianelli Photography[/caption] What’s RSC's dining-room experience like? Alida: We’re in a gas-station complex, but you’d never know it [once you're] in our sweet little dining room. Paul: RSC feels like a family-run restaurant in a French village, comfortable and cozy—no one rushing you. Alida: Cozy as in 12 seats! The largest party we can seat is four. We’re open Friday and Saturday evening by reservation only. Once you’re here, you can stay as long as you like. What inspired your menu? Paul: RSC has a strong focus on seafood. As a young chef, I really liked this oyster bar in Princeton that had wonderful food and atmosphere. When I visited Paris, I sought out the huitreries—oyster houses. Our dining room is called Huitrerie. We always have oysters and seafood towers. The rest of the menu changes. Now, we’re doing salmon, snails, sardines, caviar, salads, goose egg pappardelle, Wagyu ribeye, a cheese selection and a few desserts. Alida: We get our amazing fish and shellfish from a fantastic retailer in Lebanon in Hunterdon County—Metropolitan Seafood, which sells nearly a hundred varieties. They get it daily from the Hunts Point Fish Market, and it’s so fresh and high-quality. What do you sell for takeout at Atelier? Paul: Atelier carries what our customers like to eat for dinner [here], at home—interesting, fun, no shortcuts in the cooking. We have entrées like whole roasted chicken from Griggstown Farm in Princeton, or chicken cacciatore, duck leg confit, asparagus quiche and steak salad. Also, side dishes and snacks like mac and cheese, a hearty soup, chicken liver mousse, hummus, shrimp cakes, smoked trout filet, artisanal cheese and bread—plus lots of European deli and pantry items. Or, if you want to cook with great ingredients at home, you can order our Bolognese or tomato sauces, Caesar or blue-cheese dressings, chicken, grass-fed filet mignon, ground beef, sausage and so on. Alida: Atelier also sells our own unique specialties like smoked Aleppo (chile) oil or house-made goose egg–enriched ice cream, courtesy of our pet geese. Atelier is open from 11 am to 5 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Paul: As you can tell, these two chefs actually have some time off.

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