Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky on his mother’s native Indian meals, Akhtar Nawab understood that cooking played an important role in upholding his family’s heritage. Rolling out homemade bread was a kitchen chore he considers an inspiration for a career in the culinary world.
His first job out of school was at San Francisco restaurant Bizou, working under Chef Loretta Keller.
In 1998, Akhtar moved to New York to work for Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern. In 2001, he joined Colicchio to open Craft as its Sous Chef. One year later, he went to Craftbar where he was Chef de cuisine and finally Executive Chef. His menu for Craft’s casual sibling earned the restaurant and Akhtar a strong local following.
Seeking a change, Akhtar accepted the position of Executive Chef at The E.U., a then-struggling gastropub in the East Village. He helped bring renewed attention and acclaim to the restaurant with his original menu of modern pub fare that combined European tradition with an American sensibility.
In February 2008, Akhtar opened Elettaria, achieving a considerable goal – owning a restaurant. For Akhtar, this meant a foundation of seasonal American ingredients prepared with Indian spices and combinations of flavors he grew up with. Elettaria, the Latin word for green cardamom, offered a nod to his heritage, while staying true to his “less-is-more” style of cooking.
Akhtar, in May 2010, accepted an offer as Executive Chef at La Esquina. In 2014 Akhtar left his position.
Wanting to get back to the roots of Mexican street food, 2014 brought yet again new opportunities. Akhtar joined the Choza taqueria team as the Chef/partner to help redefine the concept.
In November of 2014, Akhtar began on of his largest projects to date. A new health food company, Indie Fresh, in Gotham West Market and his new store in Chelsea Market which opened in May 2016. Focusing on strong flavors with a healthy nutritional balance. The ever growing menu includes, soups, salads, paleo foods and original smoothies.
Akhtar is also the Chef advisor at Table restaurant in Washington DC. There Akhtar cooks a menu of European inspired cuisine with American, market driven, influences.