Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune

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.

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 kids. Coming from a broken family, Hamilton left her home in Pennsylvania at the age of 16, landing in New York City. She supported herself as a dish-washer, 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.”

“Every single thing that I have taken on is a thing of total joy or pleasure.” – Gabrielle Hamilton

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, amongst the noise and chaos of the city, Hamilton struggled with an inability to put words to 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.”

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, but, 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.”
-Gabrielle Hamilton

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.”

“I’ve created the family that I have been hunting for with all of these hoodlums! I mean that endearingly about all of the people who work here.” -Gabrielle 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. But, like all families, Hamilton finds herself in an unorthodox equilibrium,”I never really did ever find balance,” she admitted. Supervising thirty 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.”

Today, Chef Gabrielle 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.”-Gabrielle Hamilton

Mood of Living – Meet Gabrielle Hamilton from Nicky Keros on Vimeo.

Social Media

Facebook:Prune Restaurant

Visit Prune’s website here

Purchase a copy of Chef Hamilton’s book here

Watch Chef Hamilton on Season 4 of Mind of a Chef here

Photos Credit to: Eric Wolfinger & Nicky Keros

Gabrielle Hamilton, Chef and Owner of Prune Restaurant