Nicole Gajadhar, Chef de Cuisine, The Loyal

Nicole Gajadhar The Loyal NYC
Nicole Gajadhar is the Chef de Cuisine at The Loyal in the West Village in New York City, serving up American dishes and cocktails
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Longtime West Village resident and Chef Nicole Gajadhar, credits her daily stroll to work with providing her the time she needs to plan and reflect.

For 17 years, Gajadhar has walked the downtown streets and crafted great menus and unified kitchen brigades; first heading over to NoHo where she made a name for herself running the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine at Saxon and Parole.

After leaving the place she helped turn into a downtown favorite, her culinary expertise needed a new home. She joined Restaurateur & Michelin-starred Chef John Fraser, a culinary trailblazer, best known for redefining the role of vegetables in American cuisine from imaginative fine dining restaurants to nostalgic neighborhood brasseries, as the Chef de Cuisine at Nix, Fraser’s Michelin-starred vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the West Village.

In May, The Loyal, Fraser’s beloved West Village bistro re-opened with Gajadhar as Chef de Cuisine. Since opening in 2017, the restaurant has become a neighborhood institution.  The Loyal serves seasonal American dishes and cocktails for indoor dining, plus 30 outdoor side-walk seats on Bleecker Street.

Fraser made a point of staying open during the trying times to keep his employees working, and to be a beacon of light for the neighborhood. Nicole Gajadhar’s place as the lighthouse keeper is cemented every day as she takes in the changes, ebbs and flows in the neighborhood and interprets that in her menu.

  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Imperial Dade
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Atosa USA
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • RAK Porcelain
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Day & Nite
  • Easy Ice
  • Inline Plastics
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • RATIONAL USA

How did you get interested in becoming a Chef?

I was raised on my grandparent’s farm in Trinidad, always playing in the kitchen and learning to cook as well as planting, growing and harvesting our crops seasonally and I was influenced by the East Indian and Caribbean cooking styles creating meals from the surroundings. This had a profound impact on what I wanted to do with my life.

My family moved to America when I was nine-years-old, but I wasn’t sure about my career goals. I spent two years in college at Borough of Manhattan Community College, graduated not knowing what I wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to do something creative. One night my aunt had attended an event at BAM where she spoke with the chef. As I was chatting with her about her experience at the event, chatting with this female chef about the food being served that night, I was reminded of how much I loved cooking when I was a kid and how I thought I wanted to be a chef.  The conversation inspired me to explore a career that was once important to me, so I set out on a course that led me to study at the New York City College of Technology.  I chose NYCTT because they were not only a good fit financially, but they also offered a well-rounded degree with their program.  It enabled me to begin working towards a B.A. in Hospitality Management.

I was inspired to follow my dreams into the culinary arts and set out on a course that led me to spend a semester in Florence, Italy, and into the realm of a chef’s life. I externed at Tabla, worked at 10 Downing, Tertulia, and The Lion before joining the AvroKo Hospitality Group at Saxon + Parole.

Tell us about the concepts you were involved with while at AvroKo Hospitality Group.

I was on the opening team with Executive Chef Brad Farmerie for The Poni Room.

Before that time, when they partnered with JetBlue, I was part of the team creating the menu for their Mint program, JetBlue’s new take on business class flying. We designed dishes that had to taste great, taking into account that perception of taste is altered when you’re flying and the logistics of preparing food for such a huge operation. I was on the Saxon + Parole team.   When I helped open up Saxon + Parole Moscow it was all about working with locally available ingredients to create the same Saxon + Parole experience.

What’s the make-up of The Loyal kitchen and staff?

My kitchen philosophy is that we are a family-oriented team. My staff cooked with me when I was a cook; they still work with me for more than 10-years, and joined me at the new restaurant.  Everyone is super equal, I have three cooks, one prep cook and one part-time pastry chef and together we serve 70 to over 100 covers per evening. I highlight diversity and inclusion in my kitchen and this resonates throughout the restaurant.

What’s on the menu?

We offer a menu that’s manageable, seasonal and highly flavorful.  Guests enjoy the dishes.  Top-selling dishes are the house-made pastas and vegetables-vegetarian dishes.  Notables include the ½ pound Piedmontese burger, Sweet Potato Curry, Duck Tots and the dessert Sundae Set.

Beverage Director of John Fraser restaurants Amy Racine directs The Loyal’s wine & cocktail program, which serves innovative cocktails with a cheeky twist and an adventurous wine list laced with surprises.

What’s your view on the industry today?

We need to take a very holistic view of sustainability that crosses over to the entire operation.  It’s about sustaining the planet and sustaining our team. It’s about “hospitable thinking and acting” in every arena.  The industry is changing; undergoing a renewal and reopening, with a bigger perspective of how we handle things.  The main focus now includes finding staff, homing in on the treatment of staff and moving in a different direction with new attitudes about sustainability, a healthy work culture and the food purveyors we engage moving forward.

The industry overall must support staff getting proper wages to live fairly. I applaud my boss John Fraser for reopening The Loyal during the pandemic so that our staff could work.  It showed appreciation for his employees and support for the community.

You are a member of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, why did you join and what do you see as the role of the organization for the industry?

I have been a member since 2019.  Working in kitchens is very time-consuming. I literally have no time to network or build relationships. I wanted to join a group I know would understand, uplift and also encourage growth of their fellow peers. I served on the Task Force in 2020 with Alliance founder Sara Moulton to pave the way for a healthier culture within the Alliance.

I felt it was important for the Alliance to be rebranded and evolve and actually begin thinking about community, things going on in the industry too. Our purpose was to refocus, to update issues that matter, changing the code of ethics, branching out the membership to be more diverse, and holding individuals accountable in their behavior towards each other.  I am proud of our accomplishments, especially the new mission statement that is on the NYWCA website, and for making the Alliance relevant today for all members. Our members are from all sectors of the industry. I enjoy the networking, building new friendships, keeping relevant in our industry and supporting talented women.


Portions of this interview appear in the NYWCA newsletter. Photo Credit: Karlie Louise

  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Atosa USA
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Imperial Dade
  • Inline Plastics
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • McKee Foodservice Sunbelt Bakery
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Day & Nite
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Epiq Global Payment Card Settlement
  • Easy Ice
  • RAK Porcelain
  • RATIONAL USA
Joyce Appelman
Joyce Appelman is the SCOOP News Editor and Senior Contributing Writer for Total Food Service and previously the National Communications Director for C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program. An industry leader supporting education and scholarships, she has been instrumental in opening career opportunities for many young people in the foodservice industry. Email her at joyceappelman@gmail.com