Sweet Memories: Zoe Nathan

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Photo by Emily Hart Roth

Sweet Memories is a new blog series on Good Food where Chloe Chappe talks to local chefs and bakers about the flavors and memories that inspired their food.

Zoe Nathan along with her husband Josh Loeb, are the heads of famed Santa Monica restaurants Rustic Canyon, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery and of course, Huckleberry Café & Bakery. She went to the Culinary Institute of America and has shuffled through the kitchens of Jardinière and Tartine Bakery. Her zeal for baking and cooking are evident mostly in the shear perfections of her creations. If you ever get a chance, try the blueberry cornmeal cake at Huckleberry – it is superb. Huckleberry is located at 1014 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 9040. Plus, she just wrote a cookbook based off of the treats and dishes served at Huckleberry.

Chloe Chappe: Is there any dish from your childhood or past that you make in your bakery today?

Zoe Nathan: Scones. My mom didn’t make them often, but she did during the holidays, and I loved helping her make them and devour them with my brothers right when they came out of the oven with lots of butter and jelly. I grew up in a house where my Mom often had something fresh baked on the counter, whether it was banana bread, or pumpkin bread, or chocolate chip cookies. I don’t make these things exactly like my Mom made them, but I try to make them with the same simplicity and spirit.

CC: Are there any specific smells or ingredients from your past that have influenced your current creations?

ZN: There are so many smells that were in my house growing up that have influenced who I am. My mom’s peppers and onions, roast chicken with apple and potatoes underneath coming out of the oven, a slow cooking sauce on the stove, pancakes on the griddle or cookies being pulled from the oven. What I remember most is that the kitchen always smelled delicious, never sterile or empty. These smells have literally made me who I am.

Zoe with her dad, Stephen Nathan
Zoe with her dad, Stephen Nathan (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

CC: If you could eat one meal from your past over again, what would that meal be? Why?

ZN: Noodle kugel, noodle kugel, noodle kugel…with, of course, extra sour cream. Every birthday for my entire life I’ve asked my mom to make her noodle kugel for me, as I also did during my pregnancies and after the birth of my children. Noodle kugel is my comfort food, but it has to be my mother’s noodle kugel!

CC: Huckleberry is a restaurant focused on community and family. Did you grow up in a family that focused on community, sharing and family gathering? Are there any stories from your childhood that inspire you in your passionate endeavors to create community through food?

ZN: I grew up in a really close family and we’re all still very close. We had dinner together every night and had breakfast together every morning. People puttered around the house at other times, but you always knew you were going to meet around the table at some point soon and be nourished by food and company. For me, I felt very loved in that and in turn as I grew up, I searched for a way to try and create that feeling of community with other people and create an experience where they feel loved and nourished. And at the end of the day that’s all Josh and I are trying to do.