My early days in the food industry were far from glamorous. I started out like most people do, washing dishes. Even when we started Nai it was challenging. We basically started Nai from an idea, the dream of reaching a high level in the culinary world, some traditional recipes from my mother and grandmother, and not much else. Everything was new and exciting because we were able to create our own space, but we were challenged by this at the same time. We definitely had to work our way up which was and still remains our greatest challenge.
I think customers would be surprised at the level of energy and high intensity of our team in the kitchen. We put a lot of heart into everything we do. We take a lot of pride in what we put out and we are always trying to make sure our food is of the highest quality as well as being visually appealing to our customers before it gets to the table and that takes time.
My favorite place to eat in New York City is Silvia’s in Harlem. Its a staple in Harlem that we can definitely relate to, do to its traditional family-style recipes.
I think as a chef, what we enjoy is the process of creating. The most exciting/favorite food items to make are always the new menu items. After a while though, I start to get a bit anxious and the need to create new dishes takes over. Its why we change the menu seasonally.
We have a very fast paced kitchen so there is always something funny going on
I am always inspired by my mother. Nai is really a tribute to her and her recipes. I also find it inspiring to be able to work every day in a career with limitless opportunities to create. Everyday is a chance to work to better yourself and your performance within the craft.
I think New York City’s diversity creates an amazing atmosphere in the culinary scene. To be able to really connect with totally different cultures and their food, styles of cooking, techniques, etc. lends itself to being able to create so much more than if we were anywhere else.
My favorite food is Pulpo a la Gallega. Its a very simple dish of octopus and boiled potatoes with just salt olive oil and paprika. As traditional as you can get, but i don’t think i can ever get bored of eating it.