We here at Best of NJ are grateful to have the privilege of speaking with some of the world’s most talented people. From authors and architects to singers and game developers, there is no shortage of amazing people with ties to the Garden State. Our Up Close interview series is all about showcasing these people and their abilities, offering our readers a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some incredible men and women.


Up Close with Chef Lex Grant (Eat Me Up Cuisine)

If you asked Alexia “Chef Lex” Grant what she thought her profession might be while she was still a student at Piscataway High School, a career in the culinary arts wouldn’t have been her response. Grant grew up in Piscataway as the only child of West Indian parents. After high school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do and admits she felt a bit stuck. Then she received some advice from her grandfather that changed her life…

Up Close with Track and Field Champion Joetta Clark Diggs

If you had to pick one race Joetta Clark Diggs – an athlete who has participated in hundreds of meets across four decades in her illustrious career – ran that encapsulated the spirit and strength one of the most celebrated American athletes in track and field history, the women’s 800 meters final at the 2000 Olympic Trials is a good place to start. It exemplifies that she is tenacious, fearless and always gives her best…

Up Close with Local Artist Margalit Romano

Local New Jersey artist Margalit Romano developed a passion for art as a baby. After growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and studying at Brooklyn College, that passion never faded. Now, a few years out of college and a resident of Southern New Jersey, Romano has turned her passion into a career. Her innovative and dynamic portfolio encompasses a wide array of styles and series, each displaying the vivid wirings of her artistic mind…

Up Close with Radio City Rockette Katie Hamrah

Christmas is a time of traditions, family, joy and more. Speaking of traditions, a world famous one is gearing up to perform on 50th Street to kick off the holiday season. The Rockettes are an internationally known dance troupe, famous for their high kicks and the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. In addition to performing, each Rockette also spends their time volunteering…

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Up Close with Award-Winning Chef Eric LeVine

New Jersey often gets overshadowed by its close proximity to New York City. The Big Apple is where many entrepreneurs and celebrities go to open up their businesses and hang their awards. But as you may or may not already know, the Garden State is proudly home to a number of wonderful – and award-winning — men and women. One such accolade owner is New Jersey’s own Chef Eric LeVine…

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Up Close with Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez

With the 2016 Rio Olympics in the rear view, many athletes are quickly moving on to new pursuits. For some, that journey starts with a trip back to the gym so they can start prepping for the next competition. For others, like Olympic Gold Medalist – and NJ native – Laurie Hernandez, it means exciting new activities and challenges. Best of NJ had the opportunity to chat with Hernandez about what’s next for her…

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Up Close with The Cousins from HGTV

Reality TV fans, rejoice: HGTV’s America’s Most Desperate Kitchens (AMDK), starring the Jersey born-and-bred cousins John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino, aka “The Cousins”, kicked off its second season with a double-episode premiere on July 16. To celebrate, the cousins held court at Talde, a Filipino-fusion restaurant in Jersey City that they designed and co-own with Top Chef Alum Dale Talde, among others…

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Up Close with Game Developer Renee Gittins

The Indie (short for “independent”) game community has exploded over the past decade thanks to advances in technology that have facilitated game development. One great thing about this is it allows anyone with an interest in programming to use the resources available online to become a self-taught programmer. One such example is Renee Gittins, a self-taught game designer who now runs her own independent game studio…

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Up Close with Grammy-Winning R&B Artist Anthony Hamilton

Best of NJ caught up with Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer Anthony Hamilton to talk about his new album, amidst a recent sold-out show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The R&B artist is currently promoting his latest album, titled What I’m Feelin’. Hamilton doesn’t hold back on the title track as he opens up about the pain of heartbreak, loss, and life changes…

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Up Close with Best-Selling Author Harlan Coben

To celebrate the release of his twenty-eighth book, New York Times Best Seller Harlan Coben was center-stage at a meet-and-greet at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood. The turnout was impressive, especially considering it was the middle of a workday. Dedicated fans gathered as Coben spoke briefly, and humorously, about his career, his family and, of course, his brand new mystery novel “Fool Me Once”…


  • Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Brian Jackson / Adobe Stock
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