With a Touch of Love staff from left to right: Sparkle Hughes, Niajette Anderson, Alexandria Murphy, Owners Emmett Murphy and Executive Chef Karry Peterson, and Naya Latney. (Courtesy of With a Touch of Love)

With a Touch of Love recently celebrated its one-year anniversary at its brick-and-mortar location on 324B Orange Road. The occasion marked the passion and dedication poured into every dish and detail since the restaurant’s inception.

Cooking has always been an act of love for Karry Peterson. She grew up watching her grandmother carefully select and blend spices for every meal and helping her mother season meat. Even though her culinary talent was something her loved ones looked forward to, Peterson never considered turning her hobby into a career.

“It wasn’t even a vision for me; at the time, it was more so just me doing the girlfriend thing,” Peterson said.

As much as she tried to ignore the gift she possessed, Peterson’s cooking gradually extended beyond her usual circle of family and friends. She transitioned from preparing meals for loved ones to operating out of a commercial kitchen in East Orange, where customers had the option to pre-order for pickup. A year later, with an established clientele, Peterson and her co-owner, Emmett Murphy, set out to create a more permanent establishment.

Renowned for its blend of American and Caribbean flavors, With a Touch of Love stands out for its delicious offerings and unconventional hours of operation—it stays open until 4 a.m. three times a week.

“We figured there’s nobody else serving dinner entrees or even any food at that time at night. So we think we’re going to be one of the first to do that,” Peterson explains, highlighting the innovative approach to fulfilling a late-night culinary void.

Braised Oxtails
Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass

As the executive chef, Peterson wanted to combine her Jamaican heritage with her Newark upbringing by making dishes such as braised oxtails, jerk chicken and sea bass. Collaborating closely with her team, Peterson determined what menu items proved successful and what new dishes she wanted to introduce to the menu. To get inspiration for what to offer in Montclair, she traveled to various restaurants across the country, including New York and Atlanta.

With a Touch of Love has found success in the South End neighborhood of Montclair. The restaurant is situated alongside popular local businesses like Montclair Flowers and Gifts and Mahir’s Unisex Barber Shop. Peterson says it was the support of the community that encouraged them to hold a grand opening.

“They’ve been showing us love from the beginning,” she said. “It’s like a family. Everybody pretty much looks out for each other,” she says.

Fish tacos

One of With a Touch of Love’s proudest customers is Fourth Ward Councilman David Cummings. He enthusiastically endorses dishes like the flavorful fish tacos and the Rasta Pasta. Dining at With a Touch of Love allows Cummings to continue supporting Black-owned businesses in Montclair as well as a fellow Mountie.

“The food is incredible. And I’ve known Emmett since he played basketball at Montclair High School,” Cummings said. “I support the businesses in the South End, such as Choppy’s Cleaners and the flower shop. I’m looking forward to it progressing and getting better.”

Since opening up the restaurant, Peterson gets to celebrate creating a solid customer base and graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education of New York in May.

“Even though I got the praise of everybody around me, that wasn’t enough. I still wanted to have the accolade of being a chef,” Peterson said.

Now that the restaurant has surpassed that “hump” that Peterson said most restaurants face by failing within the first six months to a year, With a Touch of Love is ready to expand its business. They hope to have a bigger location where patrons can sit and obtain a liquor license.

“It is my passion. I mean, of course, like anything else, it gets overwhelming at times. But I love to eat, and I love to see how people react to good food. I wouldn’t do anything else. With a Touch of Love is here to stay,” she said.

For With a Touch of Love’s hours and menu items, visit www.withatouchoflove.com.