Gabrielle Hamilton is chef-proprietor of popular New York restaurant Prune (now closed), and author of Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, which was described by Anthony Bourdain as "simply the best memoir by a chef ever". She has been the recipient of four James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Chef in 2018, and was featured in the PBS show Mind of a Chef in 2015.
Hamilton’s biography is somewhat unusual for a chef. She did not attend culinary school, and had no formal experience working in the restaurant business before opening her own restaurant.
Born in 1966, and raised in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Hamilton has related in interviews how her French mother influenced her culinary philosophy, saying that she didn't waste food and the family often foraged for fresh ingredients from their garden and the forests and fields surrounding their house.
Nevertheless, the young Hamilton did not pursue a career in food immediately, first attending Hampshire College in Massachusetts, before moving to New York to work in catering. From there she moved to Michigan to study for an MFA in creative writing at the University of Michigan, and finally returned to New York after graduating, opening her first restaurant, Prune in 1999.
Opened in New York’s East Village in 1999, Hamilton’s first and only restaurant, Prune was soon a firm favourite with local diners, and received widespread acclaim from critics and fellow chefs such as Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert for its unpretentious bistro-style menu. Hamilton was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: NYC for two years running in 2009 and 2010, before winning the category in 2011. Prune closed permanently in 2020 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The same year, she published her New York Times bestselling memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, earning another James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. In 2014, Prune was awarded a Bib Gourmand by the New York Michelin Guide, a title given in recognition of restaurants offering quality food at affordable prices.
Hamilton is also known for her food writing, and has contributed to several publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Bon Appetit, Saveur and Food and Wine Magazine. She earned another James Beard award, this time for journalism, for her 2015 article Into the Vines, a piece on the wines and winemakers of Italy for travel magazine Afar. In 2018 she won yet another James Beard award, for the coveted title of Outstanding Chef, taking her current total to four.
Hamilton released a cookbook, Prune in 2014, featuring recipes for some of the restaurant’s most sought-after dishes. Read on to find out how you can recreate some of that Prune magic in your own kitchen at home.
Prune’s brunches are the stuff of legend, with eager customers queuing for hours to sample its delights. Chief among them is the Monte Cristo, a true breakfast-lunch hybrid that’s part triple decker sandwich, part French toast. Made with generous layers of Swiss cheese, French ham and roasted turkey, the whole sandwich is dunked in milk and eggs, griddled in clarified butter, deep-fried, and served with a dusting of powdered sugar, red-currant jelly and fried eggs.
A simple but indulgent bistro twist on the classic cheeseburger, Prune’s grilled hamburger with cheddar cheese on toasted English muffin with parsley-shallot butter, is a generous beef and lamb patty, topped with cheese and dressed only with a parsley and shallot butter. This deliciously fatty combination is held together by a dense, chewy English muffin, which easily absorbs all those flavourful juices from the burger, cheese and butter.
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