It was in the Navy, of all places, that Jeff Nathan reclaimed an early interest in cooking and forged a new path. After starting out as a gunner’s mate, by the time he finished his term he was cooking for a captain on a destroyer and dignitaries around the world. Then he took advantage of the GI Bill to train at the Culinary Institute of America on the way to an eclectic and accomplished career.
“You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to touch, smell, feel, eat and have passion in what you do,” said Nathan. “I just had a passion for food. I love the business itself. I love the business end of it. I love the cooking end of it. I love putting it all together and having everything come to fruition. I just love it.”
So when Nathan was looking for a new venture and heard a proposal for a kosher restaurant available in Midtown Manhattan, he saw a challenge worth grabbing.
“I didn’t want to come up with Jewish items because honestly, someone’s grandmother’s going to cook that better than me,” said Nathan. “I came up with modern American food that I’ve always been doing all my life, that just happened to be kosher.”
At Abigael’s on Broadway, he’s become one of America’s most popular chefs in the field, noted for his inventive approach. On television, Nathan hosted New Jewish Cuisine and Jeff Nathan and Friends. He’s produced two cookbooks — Adventures in Jewish Cooking and Jeff Nathan’s Family Suppers — and his creations can be found on the shelves at Fairway, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
“Once you’re on TV, all these wonderful things happen,” said Nathan. “You get noticed more. The cookbooks came from that. We got busier from that. It’s like a step-ladder, which is wonderful.”
He’s brought his creativity to Barclays Center, with items such as the Smoked Brisket Egg Roll, Empire Kosher Chicken Sandwich, chili, and a burger made from a propriety blend of chuck, short rib and brisket.
“To me, simple food, as long as it’s done correctly and you put your heart and time into it, and use fresh ingredients, it will come through,” said Nathan, “whether it’s a hamburger, hot dog, tortilla chips — we fry the chips five minutes before we serve the nachos. There’s a certain freshness there, and people can tell.”
Abigael’s on Broadway is located at 1407 Broadway, between 38th and 39th Streets