Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune
Food & Drink — Eat

Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune

United States

Mood of Living  /  Jun 10, 2016

Hamilton has made her mark as a successful chef, author, restaurateur and TV personality.

Gabrielle Hamilton, renowned chef and owner of Prune Restaurant in New York City, creates an exceptional food experience that is personal and authentic. Winner of Best NYC Chef 2011 by the James Beard Foundation, co-star of five-time Emmy award winning show Mind of a Chef, and author of New York Times Bestseller, Blood, Bones & Butter, Hamilton is both a successful author and restaurateur. Through her restaurant, words, and recipes, Hamilton cultivates taste and shares her appreciation for traditional and simple food.

Gabrielle Hamilton, award-winning chef and New York Times-bestselling author.
Gabrielle Hamilton, award-winning chef and New York Times-bestselling author.

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton grew up in a rural town near New Hope, Pennsylvania. Raised by a French ex-ballerina and American set designer, Prune – as her mother called her – was the youngest of five children. Coming from a broken family, Hamilton left Pennsylvania at age 16, landing in New York City.

She supported herself as a dishwasher, waitress, and eventually worked as a large-scale caterer. After years of toiling around the city’s food industry, she left New York to pursue an MFA in fiction writing at the University of Michigan. “I wanted to see what else I was good at and I wanted to get out of the food business,” remarked Hamilton. “I had always wanted to be a writer, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Hamilton's NYC restaurant, Prune, has been open since 1999.
Hamilton's NYC restaurant, Prune, has been open since 1999.

Caught between her two passions, Hamilton split her time between the classroom and catering. Upon graduating with her MFA in fiction writing, she returned to New York to begin her first novel. However, among the noise and chaos of the city, Hamilton struggled with an inability to put words to a page. As much as she fantasized about writing all day, she realized she needed an anchor for her time and energy. “I would never get up and write…and that’s how the restaurant came to be. I was sitting around, not writing a novel and was like, ‘This is ridiculous.”

The bar at Prune.
The bar at Prune.

In October of 1999, Hamilton opened Prune in NYC’s East Village. Influenced by her mother’s ability to feed the family within a tight budget, Hamilton established Prune as a culmination of her life experiences. Prune’s highly personal, French-Italian-American farmhouse menu is a reflection of her family, her travels, her trials and errors, and most importantly, “from learning how to eat and knowing what I wanted to eat,” she explained.

Today the restaurant has become a place for the chef to do hands-on, practical work, with her inspiration stemming from her appetite and her attention to detail. According to Chef Hamilton, it boils down to, “I’m hungry, and I’m craving these things to eat.

“We started a style and we are going to stick with it.”

The chefs at Prune get practical experience working with fresh farmhouse cuisine.
The chefs at Prune get practical experience working with fresh farmhouse cuisine.

Prune’s 16-year success lies in Hamilton’s commitment to the culinary classics. Her unapologetic rendition of vintage French and Italian recipes demonstrates her nostalgia for the resurrected classics she grew up eating. Whether it is poulet au crème, celery hearts victor or cacio e pepe, the purpose behind her dishes is that “they have to be delicious. It can’t be too clever; it just has to be tasty.”


The staff at Prune is a close-knit "family," according to Hamilton.

The cozy 30-seat restaurant acts as a home for the close-knit staff. Within Prune’s four walls, Hamilton unintentionally recreated the secure sense of family she lost at an early age.

“I’ve created the family that I have been hunting for with all of these hoodlums!” she said. “I mean that endearingly about all of the people who work here.”

But, like all families, Hamilton finds herself in an unorthodox equilibrium. “I never really did ever find balance,” she admitted. Supervising 30 employees and raising two children, Hamilton advised “to not resist and to just go with the fact of no balance…it just calms everyone down.”

  • Figs and raspberries with steeped lemon cream

    Figs and raspberries with steeped lemon cream

  • Cold chicken with valdeon, tomatoes, green onions and beans

    Cold chicken with valdeon, tomatoes, green onions and beans

  • Fresh English and sugar snap peas with wasabi butter and honeycomb

    Fresh English and sugar snap peas with wasabi butter and honeycomb

  • Grilled shrimp with anchovy butter

    Grilled shrimp with anchovy butter

  • Radishes with butter and salt

    Radishes with butter and salt


A sampling of the flavorful dishes at Prune.

Today, Hamilton continues to find passion in life’s daily tasks. Between establishing a highly emulated style of cuisine or struggling to author what became a New York Times Best Seller, her honest words and recipes express hard work as a thing of total joy and pleasure.

“I think there is some evidence to support that if you really care about what you are doing and you really like it and commit to it, it will endure.”

Additional links:

Purchase a copy of Chef Hamilton’s book

Watch Chef Hamilton on Season 4 of Mind of a Chef

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Photography courtesy of Eric Wolfinger and Nicky Keros

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