Bobby Little and Chad Urban – The chefs and partners of CHEZ NICK, LEROY’S and LITTLE URBAN FOOD & DRINK

It’s always nice to learn more about the people who make wonderful food in New York. We have a double “Chef Spotlight” feature for Bobby Little and Chad Urban from popular restaurants, Chez Nick, Leroy’s and Little Urban Food & Drink Catering. Discover their impressive backgrounds as well as their tastes and culinary styles.

First of all, Bobby Little!

Bobby Little is the chef-partner and owner of Chez Nick, Leroy’s and Little Urban Food & Drink Catering. Raised on his family farm in small town Kentucky, Bobby grew up with the seasons and a love for food. Bobby began his culinary training working at the award-winning The Village Pub in Woodside, California, before moving to New York and working in restaurants such as Marc Forgione, Batard, Khe-Yo and Ai Fiori. At Ai Fiori he met fellow chef Chad Urban and the two kept in touch for several years before working together again at Batard. After getting together, Bobby and Chad came up with the idea of ​​opening their own restaurant, where they could apply Michelin-starred techniques to affordable seasonally-inspired American cuisine. In 2020, Bobby & Chad opened Chez Nick, a notable neighborhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Leroy’s and Little Urban Catering.

What was your first interest in cooking?

When I was 11, we moved to a small five-acre farm where my mother expanded her vegetable garden and we started raising sheep and chickens. This is where I started to take an interest in food. It felt really cool to have access to all of these ingredients and literally be able to cook with them within minutes of pulling them out of the ground. I would say that’s what first got me interested in cooking even though at the time I wasn’t fully aware of what I was learning. After we harvested these items my mother could can everything, our vegetables would last for months just because everything was so fresh. She was very good at gardening and it showed in the quality of the food we ate.

Who were some of your career mentors?

I would say three people in my career really stand out for me. When I was in college at the University of Kentucky, I had a job at FOH at a restaurant called Malones. That’s where I decided this was going to be my career, and we had a great general manager Johnny Mac who came over from Chicago and had a ton of great experience. He just coached us in a way that I didn’t realize until years later how sinking he was. I quote and still remember the lessons he taught us all these years later.

The second would be Phet Schwader from Khe-Yo, I met him while working at Marc Forgione when I first moved to New York and was lucky enough to be part of Khe-Yo’s first team . Phet, taught me a whole new cuisine and flavor profile in his cooking of Laos cuisine. On top of that he and his partner Nick sat down with us when we decided to venture out on our own to give us some great advice. We would never have started catering without them and probably wouldn’t have Chez Nick or Leroys.

Finally would be Markus Glocker from Batard, I really learned a lot in this kitchen. It served as my trip to cook in Europe without having to leave the United States. Markus is such a master at his craft that it was a privilege to work with him.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

New American cuisine by Marc Forgione and Laotian cuisine by Phet Schwader of Khe-Yo. Marc’s play on the classic American dishes he serves with a twist was truly amazing to learn and I still think of a lot of the dishes we made there to this day.

At Khe-Yo I learned to balance my flavors, salty, spicy, sweet and bitter, and that really influenced my cooking. That and learning to use fish sauce has probably been the most influential job of my career.

According to you, what are the most distinctive characteristics of your work as a conductor?

I would say it’s our combination of flavors that makes us unique. I grew up in California and Kentucky, studied abroad in Austria, and spent the last ten years living in New York and exploring the Northeast. I really try to combine all the places I’ve lived/learned about the local food scenes to create a menu. So every time we sit down to chat, we try to think about the objects we grew up with and how to cook a dish with that nostalgia, as well as the techniques we’ve learned over the course of our careers.

What is your favorite meal(s)?

My favorite meal to cook is roast chicken, with vegetables cooked in the same pan. It’s just classic, easy home cooking that I really cherish. My favorite meals to eat when I go out are Mexican or Southeast Asian. So usually I try to have at least one on my days off!

Get to know Chad Urban.

Chad Urban is the chef-partner and owner of Chez Nick, Leroy’s and Little Urban Food & Drink Catering. From Cape Cod, Chad Urban began his professional career in construction and manufacturing before attending Indiana University. Soon after, Chad signed up for The Culinary Institute of America in New York led him to jobs at restaurants in the city such as Ai Fiori, Picholine, Schilling, Freud and Batard, where he and Bobby shaped their vision for their first restaurant. In 2020, Bobby & Chad opened Chez Nick, a notable neighborhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Leroy’s and Little Urban Catering.

What was your first interest in cooking?

When I was young, I helped my mother in the kitchen from time to time, showing fleeting interest, but always focusing on other activities. My strongest realization that cooking is something I love was in college for construction management and I would cook for myself instead of eating fast food in the cafeteria.

Who were some of your career mentors?

I’ve had a few different mentors over the years, first and foremost my mother, she’s a wonderful cook herself and helped fuel my curiosity about cooking. The most impactful chef I worked with was Joe Hoffman, he and I worked together in a few different restaurants for about 2 years. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot during these years spent together. He gave me a different perspective on how to approach cooking and trained me in a wide range of flavors and techniques.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

I’ve always loved Italian food, especially pasta! I’ve always loved playing around with different flavors and styles of pasta depending on the season.

According to you, what are the most distinctive characteristics of your work as a conductor?

I love teaching all the cooks different techniques and helping them grow in the kitchen. Taking familiar flavors and dishes, then putting our own spin on them with some techniques we’ve learned over the years.

What is your favorite meal(s)?

I always love someone else cooking for me, but I have a soft spot for some of the homemade meals mom used to cook for me growing up. Our family even created a little cookbook that we shared among ourselves to pass on family recipes! Can’t forget to mention my wife’s cooking, it’s great to have a home cooked meal at the end of the night.

Learn more about Bobby’s and Chad’s restaurants.

At Nick’s: Chez Nick and follow on social media @cheznicknyc

At Leroy: Leroy’s and follow on social media @leroys_bk

Small urban food and beverage caterer: Small urban foods

Small urban foods.

Photo credit: Briana Balducci

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