From hot dogs and pizza to Italian meatballs and Halal platters, New York is home to many great foods, even if they didn’t originate here. On any given block, you can find a wide variety of amazing culinary delights, but if someone asked you where to get chicken nuggets, your first thought might be to direct them to a fast food joint. New York native Jason Hairston decided to change all that when he opened his cozy restaurant The Nugget Spot on 14th Street.
Working with much more than just chicken, Hairston has created an incredible menu of savory and sweet bites for everyone to enjoy. And forget about those heavily-processed nuggets you’ve tasted at your fave burger joint… the Nugget Spot selections are created fresh daily with ingredients you can pronounce. While he may have worked with greats like Bobby Flay, Hairston is on his way to creating his own unique legacy in the culinary world.
Despite a crazy schedule, Jason Hairston sat down with UrbLife.com to share some of his thoughts on the restaurant business, the ways he balances life and long work days, and how he is reinventing the way we see nuggets at every turn.
What sets The Nugget Spot’s menu apart from other restaurants in New York? Can you speak on some of the ingredients you use?
Jason Hairston: Well for starters, it’s the only menu in NYC to focus on nuggets, specifically the chicken nugget. It’s pretty playful and a lot of fun. We use all natural chicken, and everything is done in house. The chicken is cut by hand daily, we bake biscuits twice a day, and sauces are made from scratch too.
How do you come up with your creative nugget recipe mash-ups? Are there any ideas you have in mind that you haven’t put on the menu yet?
JH: A lot of experimentation. I love to cook and I love to eat, so I try to draw from things that I’ve made or tasted before. I’ve got so many ideas for nuggets that I’d like to try. I’ll have to run quite a few specials to see which ones people like the best.
So far what has been your personal favorite thing on your menu?
JH: Tso Tswag. It’s my personal take on General Tso’s chicken. It’s bangin’.
Your restaurant is very cozy but still youthful, What is the vibe you want people to get when they walk in the door?
JH: I wanted a place that felt like my grandparent’s basement. Chicken nuggets are comfort food, so the place should be familiar; a place you’d want to come back to. No pretense. Great food, great music.
Do you have intentions of branching out with more locations?
JH: I would love to open another spot and I think NYC has room for a few more. I believe it can work just about anywhere, ’cause who doesn’t love nuggets?
You’ve received a ton of press with some of the biggest mainstream outlets and food blogs in the city. What has been your absolute favorite review or feature, and what made it special?
JH: The Gothamist article in December 2013. It was our first big feature, and the response was phenomenal. Lines out the door. It was gangbusters.
Have you had many celebs come through the restaurant? If so, who were they, and who were you most excited about seeing?
JH: Several celebs have tried the nuggets: Travie McCoy, Action Bronson, Phish, DJ Enuff, TheFatJewish, and, although I didn’t see her, Gael Greene gave us a shout on Twitter. As a chef, that was pretty dope.
In your career, who have some of your mentors been, and what is the biggest inspiration you got from them?
JH: My Grandfather. He got me into appreciating food and really tasting things at a very young age. That’s what got me started in the kitchen.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got from Bobby Flay in particular?
JH: Nothing is guaranteed.
Having the experience of opening your own business under your belt, what is the best advice you would give to someone with a dream of opening their own restaurant?
JH: Don’t. But if you really want to do it: Plan. Plan. Plan. Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked. Build a good team so you don’t get stuck working in the business, as opposed to on it.
How do you balance your home life and work life?
JH: You have make sacrifices, but you need to take time for yourself every now and again. You’ll know when you need a break. It helps to have a very supportive and understanding better half to make sure you take that break.
What can we expect from you in the next few years as far as new business endeavors, books, appearances, etc.?
JH: I’m gonna grab the world by the nuggets! I have some ideas I’d like bring to reality, but, at present, the main focus is gonna be The Nugget Spot.
What do you want people to know most about you at this stage of your life?
JH: I love my family, and I love my friends. I couldn’t have done it without them.