Akhtar Nawab graduated from the California Culinary Academy and began his culinary career working in top kitchens through out San Francisco. In 1998, Akhtar moved to New York City to work at the renowned Gramercy Tavern under Tom Colicchio. After three years, he was enlisted by Chef Colicchio to open Craft as its sous chef. Craft went on to receive three stars from the New York Times in 2001 and was named "Best New Restaurant" by the prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2002.
Seeking a change, Akhtar accepted the position of Executive Chef at the E.U., a then-struggling gastropub in the East Village. Through Akhtar's guidance and vision, the restaurant received renewed attention and acclaim for his original menu of modern pub fare, combining European tradition with an American sensibility.
In February 2008, Akhtar opened Elettaria, achieving his ultimate goal - owning a restaurant where the menu is a true extension of himself. For Akhtar, this meant a foundation of seasonal American ingredients prepared with Indian spices and combinations of flavors with which he grew up. Elettaria, the Latin word for green cardamom, offered a nod to his heritage, while staying true to his "less-is more" style of cooking. .e restaurant earned a loyal following.
Since joining La Esquina, in May 2010, Akhtar has added his personal touch and direction to the restaurant's Mexican-inspired cuisine, crafting innovative new dishes for the menu as well as implementing a farm-to-table approach to ingredient sourcing. With these new elements, Akhtar has elevated the restaurant's culinary program, creating a fresh new menu approach to further establish La Esquina as a 'can't miss' New York City dining destination.
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Akhtar’s interest in the culinary world began at a young age through his mother's native Indian meals, which taught him 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 pursuing a career in the culinary arts.