Christine E. Nunn, Picnic’s executive chef, catering at Drumthwacket early in her career.
Chef Christine Nunn’s career as a chef is nearly as old as she is.
A child prodigy in the kitchen, Christine
was given her
first Easy-Bake Oven before her
parents didn’t give her
the oven’s light bulb for several more years, she
was undaunted and actually made the cake for her
second birthday party - a messy but tasty gooey yellow concoction whose stains remained on the playroom walls for months.
learned well from early efforts such as this, and by the time she
entered kindergarten, she
Easy-Bake Oven were catering school events as well as private parties in Radburn and surrounding communities.
was also working two nights a week as a short-order cook at a diner on Route 4, and pulled occasional shifts as a relief cook in her
school cafeteria, always bringing her
trusty Easy-Bake Oven in a red wagon she
pulled behind her
, except in the snow when she
carried it on her
Flexible Flyer sled.
skills, notoriety, and the wattage of her
oven’s light bulb all increased as she
went through school, to the point where she
almost had to miss her
eighth grade graduation because she
was catering a dinner at Drumthwacket
, the New Jersey governor’s mansion, for the retirement of the state senate majority leader.
Upon hearing of her
conflict, the senator postponed his
retirement for a week so that Christine
could attend her
It was a fateful decision, for it was at the school’s graduation dance that Christine
was spotted by a dance scout.
That summer, she
took the competitive dance world by storm.
By the time the holidays hit, she
was forced to put her
cooking and catering career on hold, as she
was in demand both on Broadway and in Hollywood to teach stars the new steps she
complex and athletic style could fully mature, however, Christine
was injured in a freakish tango accident.
partner were performing an extraordinary spin of her
own devising in which their outer extremities actually break the sound barrier, her
partner’s elbow encountered some turbulence and threw off the pair’s balance.
Christine’s foot hit the floor hard, and the impact caused all the cartilage in her
left little toe to spontaneously burst into flame.
The fire was contained and no further injury sustained, but she
would never again be able to dance at the same level.
Following the accident, she
retreated to the solitude of her
family’s compound in Bar Harbor, Maine to heal and reflect.
Although only in high school, her
dance career was already over, and her
catering career was also on the skids, as changing culinary trends had left behind her
Easy-Bake style of cooking.
More alarming, she
found herself almost without friends.
The fickle celebrity friends of her
dance career left with her
last spin on the floor, while many of her
classmates, envious of her
successes, had abandoned her
earlier than that.
Orphaned in childhood and raised by nuns - in whose honor she
adopted the surname “Nunn” - she
was now alone.
Thinking that some travel might raise her
embarked on a voyage around the world.
But the trip was uneventful, save for two nights in a Turkish prison, and being set adrift in a life raft in the South Pacific for a month following the capsizing of her
ship in a typhoon.
Depressed and directionless, Christine
returned to Maine and found solace in a bottle.
Following the instructions in a contortionist’s manual she
stumbled upon in an antiquarian book store, she
learned to squeeze herself into a 5-gallon plastic water jug (drained, of course!), wherein she
discovered a Zen-like inner peace and contentment she
hadn’t known before.
For 18 months, while touring with a traveling carnival, she
performed this feat four times daily, sometimes remaining in the bottle for an hour or more.
It was the perfect therapy for her, and allowed her to sort out her life and “get her head straight” (of course, that’s a figure of speech; in order to get in and out of the bottle, she had to twist her head to the left and back).
Upon leaving the carnival, her
teary-eyed carnie friends (most of whom remain close to her
to this day), sharing her
recognition that she
was ready at last to resume her
education and career, presented her
with a brand new Easy-Bake Oven and an assortment of high-intensity light bulbs.