Sam Freund and White Birch: Perfect Together in Flanders

By Steve Sears

You can tell when first speaking to Chef Sam Freund that the restaurant he and Steve Bussel opened in mid-October 2018 is very special. 

For a few reasons.

“The name came from my father who passed away a couple years ago,” Freund says. “He was in construction and built the house my family grew up in. When my father, Mike, and my mother, Linda, cleared the land to build, he left one white birch tree in the yard with three branches branching out of it for all his children, Erika, Michael, and I.”

White Birch, located at 380 Route 206 (908-955-0443, is, in Freund’s words, “spacious, I wanted a farm feel to it, has great natural light with the big windows in front.” The location is advantageous as well. “Thousands of cars pass us every day. Which is a blessing. I always say you never know who is going to walk through your door.” The landscape is beautiful, and modern farm pictures inside add to the atmosphere. In addition, their organic fresh vegetable garden outside their patio provides fresh produce. Freund also created an open kitchen concept with the bar, so all White Birch cold appetizers and house-made desserts come from there.  “Great for any type of get together or functions,” says Freund of his establishment.

Freund grew up in nearby Mansfield, and part of his childhood was going to the many area farms and getting fresh eggs from the local farms. “It’s unique to grow up that way,” he says, and it has fed his wonderful career. “Having a restaurant in north west New Jersey and to have the chance to utilize the farms around us, was a no brainer. That was my concept to use the local farms and to support them with the amazing, hard work they put in. The difference truly shows when you can pull vegetables right out of the ground.”  

Freund has a culinary degree from the New York Art Institute, and you can picture in your mind and feel the tingle in your taste buds that the cuisine and plate presentation are going to wow you. “Culinary is an art,” says Freund, adding that combining different foods and cooking techniques to create flavors is the eye candy. He explains his “easel.” “Then when you create colors from vegetables like beets, peas, and different fruits, and then knife cuts to make things look sexy, you’re creating the picture. Everyone eats with their eyes first, and if you can match the flavor profile from the first instinct, it all comes together.”

Freund’s resume is top notch. His first stop was One Hudson Catering and Eleven Madison Park in New York City, and next as Executive Chef for four years at One if by Land, Two if by Sea. He then went west to Denver and opened both TAG Raw Bar and TAG Burger Bar. He then returned in 2013 to the Garden State, creating seasonal tapas and monthly wine dinners for Long Valley’s Café & Wine Bar, and then opened Slamwich Scratch Kitchen in Madison, a critic’s choice winner for lunch in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Paper clip to the work history the accolades of  Beer and Bacon Festival Winner (Denver), James Beard Outstanding Contribution Award (New York), and Wine Enthusiast Magazine Featured Guest Chef, and the portrait is that of an acclaimed career.

White Birch, a BYOB which can accommodate 70 diners indoors, and an adjacent outdoor patio for up to 32, is one spot where you won’t hear the popular restaurant slogan, “signature dish.” “The goal is to constantly challenge yourself and learn. Obviously, if the guest likes something a lot, we keep it around; but I’m one who believes in change is good. Also, seasonal ingredients are important. Showcase what’s now and not before.” Freund also adds, “But if there was one thing I wouldn’t change, its definitely our focaccia bread with rosemary sea salt.” A few entree highlights are a Double Bone Pork Chop with savoy cabbage, poached apple and truffle polenta, and Lemon Herb Gnocchi with broccolini, wild mushroom, and kale.

When talking with Sam Freund, you know that, the accomplishments being what they are, the key for him, his main goal, is sending out top-notch food from his kitchen every time and loving what he does. “Yes, you are very correct,” he confirms. “It’s about passion honestly. I believe that’s in anything anyone does. I love what I do for a living. Creating food that’s unique and challenging the consumer is awesome. Meeting new people who have the same passion you do about food is amazing. The feeling that you get when you’re in a high-end kitchen and everything and everyone is doing their  job and hitting on all cylinders – it’s just powerful.” 

White Birch hours of operations are as follows:

Tuesday – Thursday: 

Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 

Dinner 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.


Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Dinner 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.


Brunch 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Dinner  5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.


Brunch 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Dinner 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.