Beard Nomination for Chef Dane DeMarco Puts Haddonfield’s Gass & Main on the Map in Year Two


After only a year of operating, the eclectic chef captures the notice of national food writers with a best chef nomination for the mid-atlantic region.

By Matt Skoufalos | January 25, 2024

Dane DeMarco outside Gass & Main in Haddonfield in November 2022. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

As the Instagram congratulations filtered in, Dane DeMarco’s first instinct was to reply, “Wrong person?”

The veteran Philly chef had turned heads in Audubon with BurgerTime, a quick-serve pandemic project, before opening Gass & Main, a modern, fine-dining fusion restaurant in downtown Haddonfield.

And not long after celebrating their first anniversary there, DeMarco was reconciling their bewilderment at being named a James Beard Awards Semifinalist for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic Region, which encompasses Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

DeMarco was the only chef from South Jersey, and just one of two New Jersey chefs to be acknowledged in the 2024 semifinalist nominations.

Wednesday afternoon was a blur at the restaurant, with champagne toasts from neighbors at William Heritage Winery, and cheers from their long-running seafood sales rep. DeMarco’s wife, Sierra Lander, spent hours on the phone managing expectations from new guests who didn’t understand why the 33-seat eatery was booked out.

The crew spent the rest of the day trying to absorb the significance of a James Beard Award nomination not long after Gass & Main celebrated the anniversary of its debut in downtown Haddonfield.

“This was our five-year goal, and we hit it on year one,” Lander said.

“It’s insane,” DeMarco said. “Honestly, never in a million years  [did I expect to be nominated for a James Beard Award].

“It’s the same as winning,” they said. “This is enough for me.”

The dishes at Gass & Main reflect DeMarco’s eclectic style, an execution of highbrow culinary techniques in the preparation of blue-collar comfort food.

Novelties like the butternut squash “winter o’s,” pay homage to Campbell’s SpaghettiOs, with root vegetables, parmesan broth, porcini and white truffles, and a chicken-and-sage meatball.

Yankee pot roast finds its apotheosis in DeMarco’s 10-hour red-wine-braised Lancaster County organic beef cheeks, which are served with red skin potatoes, horseradish, red-wine gravy, and winter vegetable succotash.

Gass & Main tartare toasty. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

The tartare toasty is an up-jumped grilled cheese sandwich comprising Birch Run blue and American cheeses, topped with Rineer Farms tenderloin, parmesan frico, and served with mustard, pickles, shallots, and a cured farm egg.

After a year, some fan favorites have returned to a menu that DeMarco describes as “hyperseasonal,” like the brown butter pan-seared New England monkfish, which harkens to a Maine lobster roll.

It’s served on an old bay brioche with celery and onion soubise, lemon-dressed brussels sprouts, and potato chip crunch.

Some items, like the truffled gnocchi mac and cheese with herbed bread crumbs — for which DeMarco recently was awarded “Best Dish” at Philadelphia Feastival, the annual Fringearts celebration — have never left the menu.

As the audience for their cooking rounds into form — DeMarco said Gass & Main has found guests among locals and out-of-towners alike — a menu that they describe as playing on both American history and TV dinners is connecting with diners who want to expand their palates.

“One of my main goals of opening here was to try to get people to try different things, and I think that’s what’s exciting,” DeMarco said. “We have a lot of regulars and new faces who come through the door weekly. They look forward to what’s new and what’s next.”

Nonetheless, DeMarco’s roots are proudly on display in the restaurant, from the close friends and family who staff it to the family heirlooms and antiques that line its walls.

“At the end of the day, it’s my family’s decorations, my father’s art; my wife, my sister, my nephew, my sister-in-law,” they said. “Everything about this is personal.”

In a broader regional context, DeMarco also views their James Beard Award nomination as an acknowledgment that South Jersey is continuing to evolve its cachet as a culinary destination.

Among perennial shout-outs for local mainstays like Joey Baldino and Zeppoli in Collingswood, and a nod for boundary-pushing forager Phil Manganaro at Park Place in Merchantville, they’re excited to feel like regional food writers value the experience at Gass & Main as comparably.

Chef Dane DeMarco (right), their wife Sierra Lander, and daughter, Indigo. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“There’s a lot of good food in a lot of good restaurants here,” DeMarco said.

“A lot of chefs are moving over here; a lot of restaurateurs are moving over here.

“I think there’s space for all of it: the pioneers who’ve been here, and the noobs like me who moved from the city,” they said.

“I think there’s room for everyone to develop the food scene here because it’s clearly ever-growing.”

As for DeMarco, the significance of the honor is still a lot to process. BurgerTime closed its doors in Audubon in 2023, while Gass & Main was still finding its footing. The acknowledgment that their fine dining concepts are connecting with a broader audience felt like a confirmation that the chef was in the best place to demonstrate their talents.

“I don’t really know what to take from this,” DeMarco said. “This has changed my trajectory of where I saw myself coming. I’ve had many blessings here; it’s more of a passion and what I should be sticking to.

“I’m also more stoked that people that are sharing the news are posting pictures of my [wagyu beef] hot dog,” they said. “I think that’s the coolest thing in the world.”

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