What do you get when you add up four major cities, 5 restaurants, and ‘Italian, My Way’? A winner of the James Beard Foundation (JBF) Best Chefs in America 2016 Award, Chef Jonathan Waxman. This is not an easy title to come by, and I am fortunate to have had the chance to meet both him and his lovely wife at the James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour at the Grand Wailea Maui in January of 2016.
Calm, cool, collected, Chef Waxman’s smile is larger than life, yet he is simply humble. Something very admirable for such a top, talented Chef. He grew up near Berkeley, California, and studied at La Varenne, a cooking school in France, only after setting aside a first love, his trombone skills in a band named “Lynx”.
His culinary career started in the 1970’s near his hometown at the birthplace of California cuisine, Chez Panisse. In 1979 he opened Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica with restaurateur Michael McCarty. By 1984, Chef Waxman made the bold move from California to the Upper East Side in New York City to open Jams Restaurant.
Dubbed the “rock-and-roll” star of the New York culinary scene at the time, he quickly hit celebrity chef status as Jams became the most sought after dining sensation of the season – California meets East Coast. JBF quickly named him to the Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America that same year.
To this day, Chef Waxman is referred to as the California cuisine pioneer, and has gained quite the following, even referred to as one of the country’s greatest chefs by James Oseland, a main judge for season two – Bravo’s of Top Chef: Masters. His accolades from the James Beard Foundation alone, include:
-Winner, Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America 1984
-Semifinalist, Best Chefs in America 2008
-Semifinalist, Best Chefs in America 2010
-Semifinalist, Best Chefs in America 2012
-Nominee, Best Chefs in America 2013
-Nominee, Best Chefs in America 2014
-Nominee, Best Chefs in America 2015
-Winner, Best Chefs in America 2016
With his hectic schedule, I was honored to get a few words from the incredible Chef about life outside of cooking, writing, and restauranteering.
1- Who does the cooking at home? My wife and me.
2- Your favorite secret indulgence? Native oysters at the Wolseley in London.
3- How did you earn the nickname ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’ on Top Chef? I think Wylie DuFresne have that moniker.
4- If our readers only have one night in New York City, Barbuto or Jams? Lunch at Jams, dinner at Barbuto.
5- Do you have a favorite date spot in Manhattan? Sushi Yasuda
6- Many of our readers live or are from Atlanta, what do you recommend as the “cannot visit without trying” menu item at Brezza? Any of the seasonal pizzas.
7- When you get time off, where do you go to escape? Tennis court.
Where can you enjoy the creations of Chef Jonathan Waxman?
Lucky for you, he has 4 restaurants on the east coast, and one in San Francisco. Let’s take a sneak peak:
Barbuto – With it’s garage doors and inviting atmosphere, this lower Manhattan restaurant pairs perfectly with a sunny New York afternoon or charming dinners with friends and loved ones. Chef Waxman created something special with this open-air hotspot proving the small-town neighborhood vibe in West Village. The service is the cherry on top at Barbuto. With a menu inspired by Italian favorites and seasonal ingredients, this slightly off the beaten path is a must try for dinner, according to the Chef. I have an urge to get there for Sunday brunch asap, as I am salivating over a menu adorned with Frittata ($18), Duck Confit ($27), and Crespella ($8 – Italian pancakes with berries, mascarpone, and honey.) There is one thing I know about Chef Waxman, he would never let a wine list disappoint, so I think I will make a weekend of it at Barbuto.
775 Washington Street, New York City, NY
Follow on Instagram @barbutonyc
JAMS – The mothership – Chef’s Waxman’s flagship restaurant is whimsical with exposed brick, heavenly ivy, and open-air dining. What is cooking at 1 Hotel Central Park in the heart of New York City? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch created from the season’s freshest ingredients, taking farm-to-fork to a whole new level . The menu is like a Van Gogh quote, “I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars (insert menu) makes me dream.” I will take one of each, however if you make me choose I will settle for ½ Dozen Oysters ($21), Linguettine (with Maine Crab – $29), Grilled Asparagus ($8), starting with a Moscow on the Hudson Cocktail ($16).
1414 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY
Adele’s – Named after Chef Waxman’s late mother, this Nashville dining establishment is the perfect place to sip a cocktail by the outdoor fire. Located in the here and now Urban Gulch area (South-west fringe of downtown), restaurant goers rave about the Kale Salad ($12) Meatballs ($11), and the service (something in common among all of Waxman’s restaurants). With a focus on seasonal, accessible comfort food sourced from local farms and purveyors, food lovers will not be disappointed. Offering an impeccable whiskey selection at the white quarter-sawn oak bar, Adele’s stands out in Nashville.
1210 McGavock St, Nashville, TN
Follow on Instagram @adelesnashville
Brezza – Chef Waxman has a knack for providing culinary experiences in hip, urban locations. Brezza, located in the Ponce City Market of Atlanta upholds the integrity of his standard. A storied building, once belonging to Sears, Roebuck & Co., revitalized into vibrant community hub housing a Central Food Hall, various shops, flats and offices. Brezza dishes up fresh wood-fired pizza with local ingredients, delicious salads, and JW (short for Jonathan Waxman) Potatoes ($18). The relaxed vibe of this 150-seat restaurant matches its Italian name, breeze.
675 Ponce de Leon Ave, Atlanta, GA 30308
Follow on Instagram @brezzacucina
Waxman’s Restaurant – Classy with a splash of rustic, Waxman’s Restaurant in San Francisco provides primo service and a delightful menu. His classic Waxman dishes, such as the JW chicken with salsa verde ($26) and other wood-fired proteins create the perfect Cali meets Italian affection. There is a nice selection of both California and European wines, and cocktails include Waxman’s easy to make at home margarita. (Find the recipe below) The Ghiradelli Square culinary delight also offers a nice patio to enjoy a cocktail or two (wink).
900 North Point Street, Suite B-201A, San Francisco, CA 94109
Follow on Instagram @waxmanssf
2 ounces tequila, such as Cimarrión Blanco
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce triple sec, such as Combier
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 10 to 20 seconds. Meanwhile, run a lime wedge around the rim of a double rocks glass. Then dip the lip of the glass in coarse salt. Strain cocktail into salt-rimmed glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Follow Chef Waxman on Instagram @chefjwaxman
Written for NCLiving.com