Raphael (nee, Rafael) A. Nazario is a Puerto Rican-born chef and author. He is also a pianist, composer, producer and arranger. He was educated at Universities in Oregon, Austria and California.
Nazario began his restaurant career in Portland, while still a student at the University of Portland. A brief stint as Sommelier in the Benson Hotel’s London Grill led Nazario to being hired at a new restaurant named ‘Fingers’ in Portland’s Old Town. As a way of earning extra money, Nazario worked the kitchen during the day and as Sommelier, at night. Within a few months, he found himself in the role of Chef at the restaurant when it received its first glowing review.
Nazario later moved to Los Angeles, where as the creative force behind the iconic Hugo’s, in West Hollywood—one of the California’s first European market/take-out/restaurants—he established himself as one of the city’s best known chefs. Nazario’s “couture cuisine” placed him at the forefront of the culinary revolution known as ‘California Cuisine’. Hugo’s became a favourite hangout not just of Hollywood royalty, but of many of Los Angeles’ top chefs, as well as artists, writers and musicians.
Nazario stepped away from the kitchen to pursue his first love: music, but was lured back into the food & wine spotlight as lecturer, consultant and private chef, and eventually, a six-year stint as the palate and force behind Tony Bill and Dudley Moore’s 72 Market Street—Restaurant wine list. (Where he also was the house pianist.) He returned from a two-year stint in Japan to work and collaborate with a then unknown Thomas Keller.
Several years later, while working as Executive Chef and General Manager of Daiquiri Dick’s Restaurant Bar & Grill (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico) While in Vallarta, Nazario contributed to a number of magazines and designed and authored a bilingual book, ‘Sand in Your Shoes’. The book caught the attention of the James Beard Foundation and Nazario culminated his Puerto Vallarta sojourn with an invitation to prepare a gala dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.
As Chef and Wine Consultant, Nazario has been found in the pages of many food magazines. A partial list would include Gourmet Magazine, Gourmet Traveller, Vogue, Los Angeles Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, California Magazine, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Wine Spectator, Travel Guide to Mexico, Fodders and The James Beard Guide to Fine Dining… He has also at one time or another another appeared on all major US television networks as well as Australian Television and Radio programming. He can frequently be seen in broadcasts of Food Safari.
As pianist, composer and songwriter, Nazario has released ten CDs. These can be found both on iTunes, and CDBaby. He occasionally uploads music material to his YouTube channel, is soon to release his Sand in Your Shoes cookbook digitally, and is working his way through the best of wines down under that he reviews with irrregular updates on this blog.