Chefs of the Round Table: Nathaniel Young of NYC’s Quality Eats

Photo: Nicole Franzen

So often we associate disruption with technology, like lightning-fast trains and augmented reality. Which is great — that shit is disruptive — but sometimes change can be softer. Sometimes it’s the subtle shift of an idea, not the earth shattering launch of an iPhone.

When it comes to food in particular, disruption is all around you. (And, no, we’re not just talking about the now ubiquitous avocado toast.) It’s the reason you ordered a green juice this morning. Your preference for organic, local fish. The realization that $300 of sharehouse groceries will result in an incredible amount of food waste.

From TV personalities to New York chefs to world famous restaurateurs, Whalebone caught up with the disrupters revolutionizing the way you think, eat and feel about food. We’ve got Tom Colicchio talking about the need for food policy in presidential elections, Nat Young advocating for a less expensive, modern steakhouse and Adam Richman fighting for the democratization of food — and that’s just to start. So, kick back with that (hopefully local and organic) lemonade. We’re diving deep.

Nathaniel Young

Resume: Operating Partner, Quality Branded (Quality Eats, Quality Italian, Quality Meats)

Vision: A modern steakhouse that’s approachable and affordable for everyone.

The Issue: Look, I love an old fashioned steakhouse…steak and Southern BBQ are really the only “American” cuisines we have. And where I work, we manage some of the best traditional steakhouses in the country — New York’s flagship Smith & Wollensky, Quality Meats. These are places where you can spend three hours celebrating a special occasion or knocking back Old Fashioneds while you enjoy a formal business dinner with coworkers, you know the type. But over the past few years, American dining has shifted.

People want casual, more affordable food, restaurants you can visit every week. And while we’ve seen that model applied to all types of cuisines, we haven’t really seen it applied to the steakhouse. That model’s been relatively untouched for more than 100 years.

The Disruption: Quality Eats, which we opened in the West Village a few months ago, is almost the complete opposite of a traditional steakhouse — and you can feel that disruption in every aspect of our restaurant. Prices are lower ($19 – $29 per steak) and portions are smaller. The menu gives updated twists to steakhouse classics, like the nitro Negroni we serve on tap or our creamed spinach hushpuppies.

What’s most disruptive, however, is our space. The room’s dark, the music’s bumping, and while a Midtown steakhouse might seat 300 – 500 guests, our restaurant only has room for 60 guests. We still think there’s a need for traditional steakhouses — we’re not Uber trying to make yellow cabs obsolete — but we do think there’s room for a new kind of steakhouse. One where you walk out at the end having spent less than $50 and feeling like you can come back and do it all again the next week.

Keep up with Nat and his disruption via his Instagram and over at Quality Branded.

Read more from our Chefs of the Round Table series: