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 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 Nish in 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 Crains 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.