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Everyone Wins at First
Mayors Healthy Cook-Off!
Judy Doyle
Judy Doyle
Mayors Wellness Campaign Director

The winners of the cook-off
The winners of the first New Jersey Mayors Wellness Campaign “Mayors Healthy Cook-Off” were (from left): “Best Tasting”—Bridgewater Mayor Patricia Flannery for “Mango-licious Tilapia;” “Best Presentation”—Denville Mayor Gene Feyl for “Shitake Chicken Breast Garden Medley;” and “Healthiest”—Montville Mayor Art Daughtry for “Sole Livornese.”
The event was held on June 6th in Parsippany

A new movement is sweeping across New Jersey: Mayors are donning chef hats and whipping up their healthiest dish as hundreds of citizens look on and join in the fun!

What’s it all about?

The Mayors Wellness Campaign’s “Mayors Healthy Cook-Off” is engaging local leaders throughout the state in a friendly competition to see who can create healthy recipes in three categories: Best Tasting, Best Presentation and Healthiest. The good news is that everyone who participates is a winner!
Nearly 500 people crowded into the Parsippany Police Athletic League building on the evening of June 6th to watch 17 north and central New Jersey towns square off in the state’s first-ever Mayors Wellness Campaign “Mayors Healthy Cook-Off.” A second event for South Jersey on October 2 at the RiverWinds Community Center in West Deptford was in the planning stages as this article was going to press.

The Parsippany event was a fun evening filled with a little nutrition education and physical fitness thrown in. Parsippany Mayor Michael Luther and his staff were the driving forces behind the event and the Morris Area Wellness Partnership’s ‘Eat Smart Move More’ initiative which was a great help. The event was emceed by WMTR Radio personalities Chris Edwards and Steve Pellettiere.

A panel of judges, which included R.J. Cobbs, Parsippany Hills High School football star and former New York Giant defensive back; Michael Hudson, President, Northeast Region, Aetna Health Care Delivery; Dr. Sonia Hartunia-Sowa, Assistant Professor, Department of Food and Nutrition, College of St. Elizabeth; and, Debra Freschl, Morris Area Wellness Partnership, awarded three mayors with special engraved silver platters as follows:

“Best Tasting”—
Bridgewater Mayor Patricia Flannery for “Mango-licious Tilapia”

“Best Presentation”—
Denville Mayor Gene Feyl for “Shitake Chicken Breast Garden Medley”

“Healthiest”—Montville Mayor Art Daughtry for “Sole Livornese”

Twelve other towns participated, represented by: Washington Mayor Kevin Walsh (Turkey Eggplant Casserole), Madison Mayor Woody Kerkeslager (Baked Shrimp with Feta Cheese); Parsippany Mayor Michael Luther (Vegetable Lasagna); Randolph Mayor Michael Obremski (Dilled Flounder); Wharton Mayor Bill Chegwidden (Stuffed Cabbage); Haledon Mayor Domenick Stampone (Ginger Salmon over Broccoli Rabe); Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello (Heart Health Turkey Vegetable Chili); Franklin Township Mayor Brian Levine (Chicken with White Wine); Mount Arlington Mayor Arthur Ondish (represented by Nita Galante—Baked Pasta e Fagioli); Rocky Hill Mayor Ed Zimmerman (Roasted Cedar Plank Salmon); Dover Mayor James Dodd (Veggie Frittata) and Boonton Mayor Cyril Wekilsky (Peaches and Cream French Toast). In addition, although they were unable to attend, three other mayors submitted recipes: Branchburg Mayor Kate Sarles (Green Spaghetti), Upper Saddle River Mayor Ken Gabbert (Chocolate Chip Cookies) and Closter Borough Mayor Sophie Heymann (Fruit Smoothie).

Mayor Chefs group picture
Mayor-Chefs strike a pose after participating in the first New Jersey Mayors Wellness Campaign “Mayors Healthy Cook-Off” on June 6 at the Parsippany PAL. The participants were: back row from left: Franklin Township Mayor Brian D. Levine, Bridgewater Mayor Patricia Flannery, Parsippany Mayor Michael Luther, Montville Mayor Art Daughtry, Lindsay Cresitello (Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello’s daughter), Washington Township Mayor Kevin Walsh, Nina Galante- representative for Mount Arlington Mayor Arthur Ondish, Randolph Mayor Michael Obremski, Wharton Mayor Bill Chegwidden and Denville Mayor Gene Feyl. Also, front row from left: Haledon Mayor Dominick Stampone, Rocky Hill Mayor Ed Zimmerman, Boonton, Dover Mayor James Dodd, Mayor Cy Wekilsky, and Madison Mayor Woody Kerkeslager.

At press time, mayors from across South Jersey were gearing up to compete in New Jersey’s second Mayors Wellness Campaign in West Deptford. Scheduled to “compete” were: Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison, Harrison Township Mayor Mike Koestler, Port Republic City Mayor Gary Giberson, Woolwich Mayor Joe Chila, Logan Mayor Frank Minor, West Deptford Mayor Anna Docimo, Deptford Mayor Paul Medany, Pennsauken Mayor Rick Taylor and Swedesboro Mayor Tom Fromm.

The South Jersey Hot Chefs ( also lent their support to the Mayors Healthy Cook-Off. The group represents 41 restaurants and was created “to raise the public’s awareness of the excellent dining opportunities available in South Jersey through a collective effort by the areas top independent restaurants.” SJ Hot Chef President Robert Minniti, owner of Bacio Italian Cuisine in Cinnaminson, was scheduled to serve as a celebrity judge, joining National Football League veteran tight end Fred Baxter, a former player for the NY Jets and New England Patriots (with whom he won a Super Bowl) and who now plays for the Washington Redskins; George Cramner, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Health System in Camden; Patrick Young, President, Aetna Small and Middle Markets; and Professor Betty Brown-Joynes MS, RD from the Camden County College nutrition program.

On-air personalities from Radio Station SoJO (104.9 FM) will also be on hand to emcee the event.
The Mayors Healthy Cook-Offs are sponsored by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and Aetna and are part of the Mayors Wellness Campaign’s effort to promote healthier living and more active lifestyles.

The Mayors Wellness Campaign is an initiative of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute ( in partnership with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (
The MWC supports mayors as champions of community health. The goal is to increase opportunities for New Jersey residents to participate in daily physical activity with a long-term goal of reducing health care costs secondary to obesity. Through public-private partnerships, the MWC provides structure and resources for healthy community initiatives. By encouraging mayors to play a leadership role in supporting local opportunities for active, healthy lifestyles, the intent of the MWC is to improve health and make New Jersey a national leader in community-based health interventions.

Last spring, each of the 566 mayors in New Jersey’s municipalities were mailed the MWC “Toolbox,” a manual designed to guide them through the implementation of wellness programs in their communities. Broken down into four major sections—Youth in Motion; Employees in Motion; Seniors in Motion; and Communities in Motion—the Toolbox outlines programs that can be directly used in every community in New Jersey. The Toolbox can also be found on the MWC website at

Major funding has been provided by Aetna and BeneCard. Additional funding has been provided by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, St. Francis Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson Hospital—Hamilton, Johnson & Johnson, Pennoni Associates, Pfizer and Bayville Holdings, LLC. The Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, the Regional Plan Association and the Ramapo College Nursing Program were instrumental in the research and development of the MWC during its initial stages.

See caption
Boonton Mayor-Chef Cyril Wekilsky (center) serves up his “Peaches and Cream French Toast” to the judges at the first New Jersey Mayors Wellness Campaign “Mayors Healthy Cook-Off” on June 6 at the Parsippany PAL. Pictured from left are: Michael Hudson, President, Northeast Region, Aetna Health Care Delivery; Dr. Sonia Hartunia-Sowa, Assistant Professor, Department of Food and Nutrition, College of St. Elizabeth; Mayor Wekilsky; R.J. Cobbs, Parsippany Hills High School football star and New York Giant defensive back; and, Debra Freschl, Morris Area Wellness.



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