Cincinnati Chefs to Watch in 2020: Nathan Friday

Photograph by Brendan Burkett

This former Please sous chef ventured out to launch a business he could call his own. After more than a year slinging his signature steamed baos from the walk-up window at Over-the-Rhine neighborhood market The Takeaway, he’s got the funds and the following to stake claim to a solo brick-and-mortar. Later this month Boombox Buns will debut anew at the corner of West 14th and Republic streets—and Nathan Friday says he’s just getting started. We talked with him about his ambitions, how he challenges himself, and more.

Years in the industry:
10

Signature dish:
Steamed beef buns

Favorite technique:
Braising

Most underrated tool in the kitchen:
Offset tweezers. “I’m not going to say they’re underrated, but they might be the most hated. I keep a pair on me at all times. Most people see them as pretentious, but for me they’re like a third hand. I can poke something in the oven with them, I can grab with them, I can open up [hot] foil. They’re such a universal tool, not just a fashion accessory.”

Most underrated skill in the kitchen:
“The ability to adapt. How do I take everything I know and put it into my back pocket so I can use it when I need it?

How do you challenge yourself?
“For me it’s about learning to simplify. As a younger cook, every time I got to cook was an opportunity to create a restaurant dish. So it’s, How do I focus on creating new flavors and adding interesting components [without having it] be a restaurant portion or an intricately plated thing?

Where do you find inspiration?
“A lot of things I create are based [on] things I grew up with.”

What are your ultimate ambitions?
“I have ambition that goes way beyond food and way beyond [a] quick-service [restaurant]. But [Boombox Buns] is an opportunity to make it happen and learn how to be a [business] operator, inspire people, lead people. It’s a huge challenge, and [I’m] just getting started.”

Why do you love what you do?
“It’s rewarding in so many ways. I’m at a point where I’m building [my business] for myself, my employees, for the people in the neighborhood, and as it grows I’ll begin building for others: young cooks and people who are disenfranchised [who want to get into the industry].”

What’s ahead?
Transitioning from operating exclusively from The Takeaway’s walk-up window to a permanent location at 1400 Republic St. in Over-the-Rhine, scheduled to open this month.

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