- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

NORTHFIELD, N.J. (AP) - The crowd had died down at Blackwood’s Deli. A few customers who had finished eating were getting ready to leave.

The deli on Tilton Road in Northfield was slow for a lunch shift, but in the back kitchen you could see Eddie Berner working on a pot of soup.

Customers would never know the man cooking their wings and sandwiches was once the lead guitarist for a band that was a staple for ‘80s new-wave music.

Berner, who works six days a week at Blackwoods, toured with A Flock of Seagulls for more than a decade.

The band’s hit, “I Ran,” still can get stuck in most people’s heads, but Berner has slowed his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle to make sauces from scratch and play music in South Jersey.

Standing outside Blackwoods, Berner no longer has his ‘80s blowout hair. He has his blond hair trimmed and tucked under a Boar’s Head deli hat.

But being a Jersey native, having grown up in Burlington County, Berner said he wanted to come back to his home state.

“I’ve been everywhere and have worked in Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, and I had all of these sauces and some dishes to bring,” Berner told The Press of Atlantic City (https://bit.ly/2phtZor).

Berner began touring with A Flock of Seagulls in 1988, when he was 21. He toured with the band until about the new millennium. He moved to popular music of the early 2000s, helping with demo work with boy bands, including the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.

He has played on everything from country to rap records. During all of this, a love of cooking provided Berner with another profession. He has been a cook and chef at corporate Palm Springs locations of P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory.

Berner’s mother taught him to cook when he was young. His love of music came soon after.

A couple of regulars walked out the front doors of Blackwood’s Deli as Berner recalled his time spent in Las Vegas. They said goodbye to Berner, and he smiled.

“Thanks, guys. It’s good to see you again,” Berner said.

Berner recalled the time in 2005 when he was in Vegas hanging out with friends at action-film star Steven Seagal’s pool house. The actor was working on an album. Berner was helping his friends with the soundboard.

Seagal walked in while Berner and friends were working on a guitar riff.

“I don’t want to hear that wishy-washy Hawaiian,” Berner said Seagal told him.

Later, when Seagal returned, the song had been layered with more instruments and chords and the actor was impressed. Berner made it a point to pull away all the other instruments on the track to show Seagal the “wishy-washy” guitar riff was still in the song.

Inside Seagal’s pool house were walls of guitars. According to Berner, some were played by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Seagal asked Berner to help him re-create the sounds on the guitars that the rock legends had made.

“I said ‘that piece of wood is not going to do anything’ and that it’s these two things,” Berner said as he moved his fingers and pointed to his head.

Seagal wanted Berner to come to the House of Blues to listen to his band, explaining he thought Berner was the only one who would be honest with him. Berner ended up assisting on the album.

Berner is a man who likes constant motion. He had a television show on Comcast SportsNet in 2015 called the “Rockin’ Road Grill,” on which he traveled by bus to different cities and cooked for famous athletes.

Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, former Phillies pitcher Larry Andersen and Hall of Fame baseball player Andre Dawson made guest appearances on the first episode. Each episode of Season One ended with Berner playing some music for the sports stars.

Berner said he’s in talks for a second season but wants to take his rock ‘n’ roll bus on the road to music festivals to cook and play with other musicians. Talks are ongoing, but Berner said he can take anyone on a group tour of the bus into Atlantic City.

Though Berner has plans to travel and has some ideas “in the works,” he is busy working each day at Blackwoods.

Berner buys all the products each day for a massive menu that spans the top wall above the open kitchen and creates his own sauces and soups.

With all the corporate restaurants he has worked at, his television show and his time as a touring musician, Berner said Blackwoods is the most challenging thing he has done.

“This is probably the hardest job I’ve had. I’m here six days a week, open to close. I do all the shopping, and I get home at 10:30 each night,” he said.

But Berner said it’s worth it when he receives compliments from his customers.

“It’s nice when people say, ‘It’s the best thing I’ve eaten in Atlantic City’ or the area or ever,” he said.

Although he enjoys Blackwoods, he performs shows in Atlantic City and he works as a consultant for restaurants in need of help.

It’s a busy world Berner lives, but he enjoys a life in motion.

“It has been a crazy life,” he said before leaving. “I don’t regret anything. Tomorrow is another day. See what that brings.”





Information from: Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/


Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

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