Rising Star Chef Nick Balla of Bar Tartine - Biography

San Francisco, CA

June 2013

Born in Michigan, Nick Balla split his childhood between the Wolverine State and Brooklyn before moving to Budapest for his high school years. Hungary’s rich family and cooking traditions (replete with backyard slaughters) drew him to food, and Balla began feeling at home working in kitchens during his schooling. In pursuit of a professional career, Balla attended the Culinary Institute of America.

After completing a culinary school externship opening Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Balla undertook repeated journeys to Japan for extensive stages, including time at a kamaboko factory for udon noodle training and a week at a Tokyo kaiseki restaurant. In 2004, he moved to San Francisco and took a job as line cook at Ozumo, providing an outlet for his ongoing interest in Japanese cuisine. From there, Balla went to work as a sous chef at Americano under Paul Arenstam. In 2007 he was tapped to take his first executive chef post at O Izakaya. He brought his inimitable Japanese cooking to the Mission District in 2009 when he launched Nombe.

While Japanese cuisine provided a platform for showcasing Balla’s remarkable talents, his home cooking often drew on the flavors of his years spent in Hungary and his travels throughout Europe. As chef at Bar Tartine, Balla now highlights these flavors, using artisan techniques for sausage preparation, cheese making, and preserving to produce authentic homemade flavors. His approachable menu matches the restaurant’s convivial vibe and focus on Bar Tartine’s bread and earned him a 2013 StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award.

Nick Balla of Bar Tartine takes James Beard Foundation 2015 Book Award for Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes.