jonathan duffe, chef de cuisine at 21c museum hotel photo by izaiah johnson

Ones to Watch 2023 // Jonathan Duffe

Name: Jonathan Duffe
Age: 25
Position: Chef de Cuisine, 21C Museum Hotel
Why Watch Him: He goes the extra mile for guests – especially grandmas.

An anecdote Jonathan Duffe shares about his experience running the Monday Supper series out of Brass Bar’s open kitchen gives an insight into what hospitality means to him. “There were times where someone came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, I'm about to leave, but my grandma loved the sauce you made,’” Duffe said. “I would take a little, like, cup container and put some sauce in there and be like, ‘Hey, leave this at the table, tell the grandma she can take that home.’ That's the best part. That’s what makes it all worth it, when we can do those little things for people.”

That impulse “to build relationships with the people that we feed” is part of why Duffe shelved his plans for a career in accounting to become a chef. “I didn't just want to cook good food for myself – I wanted to share it with people,” he said. Until the last weeks of 2022, Duffe was sharing his cooking with diners at Brasserie by Niche in his role as sous chef. “He reads and studies and practices at home more than any cook that I've run into in a long time,” said Brasserie executive chef Evy Swoboda, whom Duffe described as a mentor.

jonathan duffe // photo by izaiah johnson

Swoboda said Duffe is “extremely creative,” but a culinary education that started at Reeds American Table under chef-owner Matt Daughaday, then continued with Niche Food Group at Pastaria and Brasserie, has given him a foundational respect for the skill inherent in classical techniques and preparations. “The classics are more difficult than new things,” Duffe said. “If I give you something that you have no reference point for, you're gonna say it's delicious. But what if I give you something you’ve already eaten 20 times in your life. I’ve got to make that really, really good to live up to the standard you’ve already had.”

Recognizing Duffe’s creative itch, Swoboda and Niche Food Group owner Gerard Craft gave him the opportunity to lead the Monday Supper series at Brass Bar, creating and executing his own menus in the former Taste space. The series gave Duffe his first taste of the responsibilities of a head chef. “I had to live and die by this menu and everything else that I've decided to do,” he said. “It was stressful at first, but you kind of fall into it, and then you almost take pride in the fact, and you really get on it and you become a well-oiled machine.”

Duffe’s next move sees him reunited with Daughaday in the kitchen at the forthcoming 21c Museum Hotel, where Daughaday is executive chef. He said he’d love to open his own restaurant one day, but he’s not in a rush. “I’ll learn a hell of a lot in the next year,” he said. He can’t yet reveal what’s in store at 21c Museum Hotel, other than an assurance that it will be delicious. “If you're not excited about me, you should absolutely be excited about anything that Matt's doing,” he said. Let’s put this on record: We’re absolutely excited about Jonathan Duffe’s future.

Tags : People