The trajectory of chef Jonathan Waxman’s career is similar to the way the New York Times described his West Coast–style restaurant Jams: “a culinary comet.” That was in 1984, and Waxman’s cooking has never failed to set off sparks.
Lively and very Italian, Barbuto, Waxman’s West Village restaurant (opened in 2004), with its wood-fired oven, housemade pasta, and silky seafood, is like a profile of the chef himself. Called “the Eric Clapton of chefs” by L.A. restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, Waxman (a two-time Top Chef Masters contestant) brings the riffs of his California days with Alice Waters at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and at Michael’s in L.A. There, in the 1970s, after graduating from La Varenne cooking school in Paris, Waxman was one of the pioneers creating a new American way of cooking, with a reverence for the seasonal and for the vast resources right in our own backyard. Along the way, Esquire magazine named him one of the most influential Americans, for all that he’s contributed to the culinary world.
Taking his act to the East Coast, with Jams (where Julia Child was a fan), and later with Washington Park (opened in 2002), Waxman always held fast to the new American ideal of impeccable sourcing and inventive thinking, which continues at Barbuto, and at 2014 launches Montecito (in Toronto, a co-venture with film director Ivan Reitman), Adele’s, in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood, and his upcoming New York place within 1 Hotels Central Park.
Waxman has written cookbooks A Great American Cook (2007), and Italian, My Way (2011), and is also a prime player in the nonprofit Citymeals-on-Wheels fundraising events.