Anane Peak, a chef at Seton Hall’s dining hall since fall 2021, has made an impact on students through his feature station: “Something Special.”
Peak, who said he has always had a special connection throughout his life to cooking food, spoke about his roots, his inspiration and his love for his new job as a cook at the University.
Peak said he had taken up an early interest in cooking from watching his family, as well as daily cooking shows with his dad growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. He said he wants to have an eventual career in music, but he always felt a special passion for cooking.
“I just always love to cook because I love flavor and putting things together,” Peak said.
Peak said he always found himself in a position to make food, as he took up jobs at Outback Steakhouse, McDonalds and Essex County Correctional Facility with Gourmet Dining Services before transferring to the University’s dining hall.
Peak said he feels so much better to have a job where he is given his own feature station and where he can show off his own personal capabilities of cooking to the students.
“I’m free to be creative with my food and my recipes and show at a bigger scale what I can do,” Peak said. “The Essex County Correctional Facility was more a job where we all had to work in tandem, so I didn’t have time to showcase what I can do.”
At the “Something Special” station, Peak and the other chefs make things like pasta-based dishes, cheesesteaks, Italian hotdogs, and sausage and peppers and flatbreads. Peak said his own favorite dish, which is also a student-fan favorite, is the chicken alfredo.
Jacob Norris, a junior economics major, said that whatever Peak makes is the better option in the dining hall., his favorite dish also being the chicken alfredo.
“It was definitely my favorite because it was spiced with seasoning,” Norris said.
Norris was first introduced to Peak when he had his pulled pork in fall 2021, which he said was the best food he had tasted at the University in a while.
“It was just a total change of pace from what is usually offered,” Norris said. “It felt authentic.”
Peak said he gets his food ideas from anything, whether it’s from his travels, online recipes or random dishes he makes at his home in East Orange. He also said he appreciates the support he receives from the kitchen staff and students in positively impacting the “Something Special” station.
“One student told me, ‘I wish I could hire you to be at a restaurant somewhere around the town, we would go there every day,’” Peak said. “That made me feel like my food is really good and that it can be in a restaurant, and that was amazing to me.”
Jennifer Walpow, a senior biology pre-med major, said she is happy that Peak has turned the station into something reliable and positive. She added that he always brightens her day through his food.
“Not only is he providing students with great food options, and he makes it custom to the way they like it, he’s also just a positive and enthusiastic person to see around the cafeteria,” Walpow said. “He’ll go out of his way to say hi to you; we’re on a first name basis now.”
Both Norris and Walpow said they hope the future foods Peak makes includes more pasta options, including baked ziti, penne vodka and lasagna.
Peak said he wants to keep making more fun and creative food options for the students that would qualify as gourmet.
“Everyone loves something new, so I try to keep everything fresh and try to stay on top of it, depending on if it’s a new type of pasta or something out of the book,” Peak said.
Peak said he imagines that his future would involve cooking for students at the University for as long as possible. He said if he does end up moving on from the University, he is hopeful that wherever he goes, he will “find more success and more appreciation from whoever he serves.”
“Hopefully at a restaurant somewhere, and I would not mind going to another dining hall in another school, wherever it picks up,” Peak said. “Hopefully, I can keep doing this for a long time.”
Andrew Raccuglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.