Chef Wayne Nish inherited his love of cooking from his Maltese mother, grandmother, and aunt, and his love of the exotic from his Japanese-Norwegian father. But Nish came to professional cooking late in life. He studied journalism and architecture in college before leaving a successful career in the printing industry to begin a new life in the food world. But Nish quickly made up for the lost time. After training at the New York Restaurant School, an apprenticeship at Barry Wine’s famed Manhattan restaurant, The Quilted Giraffe, quickly turned into a professional position. In 1986, Nish was transferred to as Associate Chef to Barry Wine’s new restaurant, The Casual Quilted Giraffe. There, at the forefront of the transition from French-Nouvelle to a truly original American cuisine, Nish honed his culinary talents.
In 1987, Nish left The Casual Quilted Giraffe as Associate Chef to work as a private chef for a wealthy New York socialite. This unique experience afforded him extensive culinary experimentation and artistic freedom. In 1988, Nish left his work as a private chef to become Executive Chef at the legendary La Colombe d’Or. Within four months, Nish’s innovative cooking at La Colombe d’Or garnered the restaurant a major three-star review from The New York Times, catapulting Nish from an unknown chef to a major star. Nish observes: “I think I was a good example of a chef who was asked to work with a theme I was not directly familiar with, took the ingredients and certain traditions, and let my instincts take me from there.”
In 1990, Nish opened his first restaurant, March, in an elegant turn-of-the-century townhouse in midtown Manhattan, with his partner, Joseph Scalice. Nish’s innovative seasonal menus presented an exciting approach to New American cuisine. In only seven years, Nish and Scalice transformed this quiet corner of Sutton Place into one of Manhattan’s premier destination restaurants. In 2007, Nish closed March and opened Nishin the same space, a much more casual restaurant that earned unfortunately closed within six months. His next endeavor, Varietal, also closed shortly after opening, but Chef Nish is now happily ensconced in the highly popular Spitzer’s Corner, a Lower East Side gastropub.
It might have been a bumpy ride, but Nish received numerous culinary accolades along the way, including a four-and-one half-star review in John Mariani and Peter Meltzer’s Passport: To New York Restaurants (1997), four-star reviews by Forbes, Mobil: America’s Best Hotels and Restaurants (1996), Newsday, and Crain’s New York Business, three three-star reviews by The New York Times, a 27/26/26 rating by the Zagat Survey, a “Best Of New York” Gault-Millau Award, a “Restaurant Of The Month” award by Bon Appetit, and “The Golden Dishes of 1997” award by GQ Magazine’s Alan Richman.
Fun fact: Wayne Nish was the first American contestant on the original Iron Chef series in Japan.
Born in 1951, Wayne Nish studied journalism and architecture and had a successful career in the printing industry. But at age 32, he decided to start a new career in food and attended the New York Restaurant School, then worked with Barry Wine at the Quilted Giraffe in New York City.
In 1987 he left to become a private chef for a wealthy New York socialite, which gave him artistic freedom. In 1988 he became the executive chef at La Colombe d’Or for two years before joining forces with Joseph Scalice to open MARCH. MARCH won many awards, and in December 2000, Great Chefs taped him for their Great Chefs of America television series.
He closed MARCH in 2007 and tried several more casual restaurants in different New York neighborhoods before moving to Spitzer’s Corner, then to the Marina @ Keppel Bay in Singapore. More recently he was to open The Pavillion in Union Square in New York City for Simon Oren, but that did not happen.
In a one-sentence note practically tacked to the bottom of the column, “Off the Menu” reports today that the chef Wayne Nish has “resigned” from restaurateur Simon Oren’s long-delayed Union Square Pavilion project, which is scheduled to open next month. Nish, whose work at Sutton Place restaurant March (later Nish) distinguished him as one of the city’s most forward-thinking chefs, left New York for Singapore in 2009. There’s no word yet on his next move.
Michelin-starred chef Wayne Nish, formerly of March, is launching a burger bar above Black Lodge speakeasy in Soho.
The restaurant, BL Burger Bar, is in a revamped space above the Black Lodge. Both are owned by Jacques Owari.
The bar will feature cocktails by mixologist Miguel Aranda, formerly of Botanic Lab.
Guests choose their patties — beef, chicken, fish or lamb — and their preferences. There are also five specific options, which include a bacon cheeseburger platter with bacon, tomatoes, cheddar, blue cheese or Gruyère, romaine lettuce and pickled red onions. Other options include smoked salmon and foie gras platters.