Tailgate touchdown: N.J. Caterers Prepping for the Biggest Game of Their Careers.

By Vicki Hyman/The Star Ledger


If Demaryius Thomas and Richard Sherman think they’re training hard for Super Bowl XLVIII, they should check out Vonda McPherson’s regime — rolling out enough homemade puff pastry to feed thousands.

The caterer and chef-owner of Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark has been at it for days already, grimacing as she mimes working the rolling pin — commercial puff pastry just isn’t up to her standards. But as one of the caterers for the official VIP NFL tailgate party at the Meadowlands Racetrack, she’s not complaining. It’s the biggest, most high-profile gig a caterer could ask for (and one of the best-paying, although McPherson won’t say how much she is earning).

“When they call, be prepared to answer the call,” she told herself. “It’s big time.”

The NFL wouldn’t say how many local caterers got the nod for the event, although Danielle D’Angelo of D’Angelo Italian Market in Princeton confirmed they will also be representing the Garden State at the VIP party.

The selection process was long, with McPherson comparing it to a high-stakes version of the television show “Chopped.” She helped cater themed events for members of the NFL Host Committee; each time she returned, she says, there seemed to be fewer chefs.

McPherson is a self-taught chef, the youngest of four siblings who took over the kitchen from her mother, who worked and attended school at night, when she was seven. For years, she traveled the tristate area as a medical supply saleswoman, pushing coronary stents on cardiologists — which is a bit ironic, considering the fried chicken, mac and cheese and smoked beef sliders that figure prominently on the Vonda’s Kitchen menu today.

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