Table Talk with Chef Nimesh Maharjan

Current Gig
Executive Chef, Race Lane (East Hampton, NY)

About the Chef
Chef Nimesh Maharjan started off as a dishwasher at 29 Fair Bistro in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he worked his way up the ranks and went on to become Sous Chef.  In 2009, Chef Todd English took over the restaurant, renamed it Figs at 29 Fair, and appointed Chef Nimesh as the Executive Chef. This was the turning point in his culinary career.  A few years later, a new opportunity arose in Long Island and Chef Nimesh moved to East Hampton to become Executive Chef at Race Lane, a creative American restaurant using fresh, local ingredients.

Race Lane: 31 Race Lane, East Hampton, NY

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Chef Nimesh Maharjan at Race Lane in East Hampton

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. I moved to the US when I was 20 years old.

What did you enjoy eating most as a kid?
There was a lot of cooking in my home while I was growing up.  Watching my mom cook was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. She makes a fermented vegetable stew with soybean that I love. It takes a long time to prepare – a whole month just to ferment the vegetables! The flavor is so good. The memory of it stays with me for days. (Smiling)

At the moment, what is your favorite ingredient and what do you like to make with it?
It’s tough to pick just one. In the middle of summer, tomatoes are getting really ripe and corn is just perfect. I would choose these two ingredients at the moment because I use them a lot on my menu. I like simple cooking and enjoy using these ingredients to make tomato tarts and roasted corn succotash.

What kitchen items are important for a home cook to own?
Beside a sharp knife and good pots and pans, I would suggest having a Vitamix blender. In my kitchen, this is such an essential item.  I would be paralyzed without it! (Laughing)

If your food were music, what music style(s) would it be and why?
I would say soul music. Whatever I cook comes from the inner core of my heart and soul.

Where are your favorite places to travel for the cuisine?
There are lots of places – too many to mention!  I am definitely looking forward to my travels in France, Italy, and Spain. Their cuisines are extraordinary and I’m excited to experience real gastronomy where I will definitely have lots of great experiences to learn from.

If you had not gone to the culinary route, what would you have done instead?
If I wasn’t cooking, I am pretty sure I would be doing something related to soccer. I have always wanted to be a soccer player. (Smiling)

Which chef do you admire most right now?
That’s a tough question, as it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve learned a lot on my own, but there are a few chefs that I am really grateful to. One of them is Chef Charles Sallie, who is my guru, and without him I wouldn’t be cooking today.  Also, Chef Todd English and Chef Joe Brenner, who both believed in me and gave me the opportunity to run their restaurant, and Chef Pino Maffeo, who has been very influential in my life.  I have always admired Chef Thomas Keller, Chef Michel Roux, Jr., and Chef Marco Pierre White. Hopefully one day, I will have the chance to work in their kitchens!

When you get a chance to dine out, where do you like to go?
I don’t go out that much, but when I have free time on my day off and depending on who I am with, I will usually go for Sushi or Asian cuisine.

If you had to give up one of the five food groups (Bread & Potatoes, Milk & Dairy, Meat & Fish, Fat & Sugar, Fruits & Vegetables) and could not eat anything from that group for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
This is impossible to answer because each group is related to each other. This is hard to even think about right now! (Laughing) I will say Fat and Sugar because I can substitute those ingredients with something else. For the other groups, there really aren’t any good substitutions!

Table Talk with Chef Nimesh Maharjan