Akhtar’s Story

Chef and CEO, Hospitality HQ

Akhtar Nawab is an acclaimed chef and the founding partner and Co-CEO of Hospitality HQ (HHQ), a creative consulting and management group which offers bespoke solutions for culinary-driven concepts across the country. The son of Indian immigrants, Akhtar grew up in Louisville, Kentucky in the ‘80s, where he took up the bass, and listened to a lot of Rush. When he wasn’t playing the bass, he spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his mother, a native of Lucknow in Northern India, cooking aromatic kebabs, biryani, and korma. A passion for cooking, born in his small linoleum-tiled Kentucky kitchen, led him to an esteemed career at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country: La Folie, Bizou, Gramercy Tavern, Craftbar, and Craft. The latter received three stars from The New York Times and won the James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” Award during Nawab’s tenure.

Nawab received StarChef’s “Rising Star Chef” award while serving as executive chef of East Village gastropub The E.U., before striking out on his own as chef/partner in Elettaria in 2008. Shortly thereafter, he began a stint of consulting work with Mexican restaurants, notably at the hotspot La Esquina, where he found he had a kinship with its tradition-heavy cooking style.

In 2017, Nawab opened his innovative Mexican restaurant Alta Calidad in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating in 2018, 2019 and 2023 and continues to thrive as a neighborhood mainstay. Akhtar is also chef and owner of HHQ’s Patchwork in Philadelphia and serves as chef partner in Bar Chinois in Washington, DC.

In addition to his work as a chef and restaurateur, Nawab offers restaurant and food hall management consulting services. Nawab has developed a niche practice in the world of food hall development, management, and innovation. Today, he is widely known as owner of the country’s premier food hall management and consulting companies with projects in Wetumpka and Atmore Windcreek Casinos, AL. Silver Spring MD (Solaire Social), Salt Lake City, Utah (The Local Market & Bar), San Diego, CA. (8th Street Market), Omaha, NE (Inner Rail Food Hall), Wilmington, DE (Chancery Market), Giorgio Armani Caffe (Costa Mesa) and Westbrook, ME (Rock Row Foodhall). Nawab also consults with LDV Hospitality (New York, NY).

Apart from the restaurant and food hall management work, Nawab has created a meal subscription and delivery business in collaboration with CookUnity. Here he offers, always fresh and never frozen, ready to eat meals serving Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City and their surrounding areas

Nawab has been featured in various publications including Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, USA Today, Eater, and has appeared on NBC’s “TODAY Show,” CBS’s “This Morning Saturday,” PBS’s “Simply Ming,” as well as Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and as a regular judge on “Beat Bobby Flay.” He has also been featured in the acclaimed cookbook Coco: 10 World- Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs (Phaidon, 2009) and J’aime New York: 150 Culinary Destinations for Food Lovers (Ducasse Books, 2012). In 2020, he released his own cookbook, Good For You: Bold Flavors with Benefits (Chronicle Books, 2020). Good For You embodies Nawab’s passion for healthful, delicious cuisine, showcasing his trusted repertoire of wholesome recipes influenced by international flavors and refined by decades of professional training.

Nawab lives on the Upper West Side with his daughter Ela.