- What's the key to surviving 'The Next Iron Chef: Redemption'?
- Nate: The key to surviving is simply cooking great food and tailoring it to the judges' palates. How you do that is more difficult. That requires me relying on my 20 years of cooking experience as well as all the education I have dedicated my life to -- learning everything about food.
- What's the biggest change a chef can expect from winning a reality show competition -- such as you did when you won Food Network's 'Chopped All-Star's' competition?
- Nate: I think the possibilities are endless. Since winning the $50,000 for the Kawasaki Disease foundation [as winner of the 'Chopped All-Star's' competition], it started me on a lifelong mission of helping raise awareness for KD, and ultimately finding a cure. This year alone, we've singlehandedly kept research going at UCSD for KD research because they have been denied grants from the government and have come up short on funds. That is real change.
- I love Chipotle, but how does the winner of a James Beard Rising Star award end up working for them?
- Nate: Chipotle shares the same ideals that I have had in my career at running small independent restaurants, but do them on a massive scale while changing the food culture in America. To be a part of something of that magnitude is pretty special. Also, when my son was two, he was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease and because of the disease, developed heart disease. When faced with that, I decided to make big changes in my life. That included not working 18 hours a day, and shifting my priorities to family first and work second.
- How has Chipotle changed you?
- Nate: I have realized that by hiring great people, you get great results. Chipotle has created a people culture where that has been proven.
- How have you changed it?
- Nate: When I started at Chipotle, they already had great food, so there wasn't a huge undertaking of taking something that was bad and making it good. I have helped improve things here and there that no one would ever notice. But the most exciting part of my job has been my being part of the development of Chipotle's new Asian concept, ShopHouse South East Asian Kitchen. We opened the first one in Washington D.C. last year and now are expanding it to L.A. in the spring. It has been really great seeing it grow and hopefully, one day, it will be as big as Chipotle.
- Of all your restaurants stops thus far, where did you learn the most?
- Nate: My very first job when I was 14 years old working as a dishwasher in a country club. I learned organization, hard work, team work, determination and the power of what can happen when all of these align. I became the best dishwasher there was and kept getting more responsibility and learning more. I have used that same philosophy for every position I have had since.
- From your experience, is it better to own a restaurant -- or simply work in one?
- Nate: If it is a successful restaurant -- own it. If not, work it.
- When you host a dinner party, what do the guests clamor for a second serving of?
- Nate: My humor and charming personality. And maybe anything pasta related.
- As the father of a 5-year-old, what can you say about where our country's nutrition is headed when it comes to children?
- Nate: I believe there will be a huge upswing on putting an emphasis on children's nutrition. As a nation, we have never been more interested and educated about food, so naturally that will improve people's awareness of what we put in our bodies and our children's.
- What are your five favorite restaurants across the country?
Animal in LA
Zahav in Philly
City House in Nashville
Aziza in SF
Peasant in NY
Tune in to see if Nate shreds the competition on the 'Next Iron Chef: Redemption'. Or watch full episodes online at FoodNetwork.com.