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Dining Room: 5pm-9:30pm
*Lunch available for larger groups*
About Executive Chef / Owner Joe Drift
While this incredibly talented and hardworking restaurateur is young, he isn’t a new kid on the block. Drift, 32, has spent more than half his life in the kitchen, starting at 14, washing dishes at the New England seafood chain Weathervane. Four months later, he was prepping food, and by age 15, he was Weathervane’s youngest kitchen manager. After graduating from high school, Drift took a job at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, and that’s where he said he really learned to cook. Drift received his formal training at Southern New Hampshire University’s culinary program while he continued to work full time at the Crowne Plaza and doing internships in Nashua and Florida.
However, it was at the celebrated Andover (Mass.) Inn that Drift really started to make a name for himself. At the tender age of 21, he became the inn’s executive chef and was cooking for prominent guests, such as the nation’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush. During his tenure in Andover, Drift was the recipient of numerous awards and medals, including placing second in the Young Professional Chef Competition run by the Paris-based international gastronomic society la Chaine des Rotisseurs. After a stint at the French bistro Cassis, also in Andover, Drift struck out on his own to open Saffron Bistro in 2007.
Drift continues to receive awards for his cooking, including the Hippo Press Reader’s Choice award for Best Chef in Nashua three of the last four years. Loyal customers return time after time to experience Drift’s eclectic and delicious cuisine. Saffron’s one-page menu offers just eight entrees, but there is something for everyone, Drift said. Diners can choose Lobster Parisian Gnocci, the popular Arugula and Beet Salad, a Truffled Duck Flatbread, Flat Iron Steak or Caramelized Sea Scallops.
Drift said the small menu ensures customers are served the freshest possible food. He keeps low inventory in his compact kitchen and buys produce daily. This translates to less waste, lower costs and tastier food for Saffron’s diners.
Drift also keeps things fresh and interesting by changing the menu every four to six weeks. While a few staple dishes remain, such as the Lobster and Shrimp Sauté, he loves to add new and exciting dishes. It allows him to take advantage of local, seasonal produce.
“I never get bored and I’m always challenged,” Drift said.
Joe takes a strong approach when keeping it local, for instance himself & the Visualize Nashua team hosted the first ever farm-to-table dinner in Nashua. He offered a prixe fixe menu featuring dishes created entirely from locally grown & sourced food.
Drift doesn’t take all the credit for Saffon’s success. He operates with a small staff, which includes a sous-chef, John, four waitstaff and a general manager, Elissa Lautenschlager. In addition to running the front of house, Lautenschlager is a talented graphic designer. She recently rebranded the restaurant with a clean, new logo and is behind the restaurant’s popular newsletter and vibrant Facebook presence. More than just a great business team, Lautenschlager and Drift are engaged to be married in early August of 2012.
Working up to 100 hours a week doesn’t leave Drift with a lot of free time, but when he does take a day off, you’ll find him relaxing with family on Lake Winnipesaukee or playing a round of golf, a sport he has been playing since high school.
“I’m just a young, hardworking guy doing it all,” Drift said.
All his hard work is certainly paying off. Saffron Bistro is helping to give Nashua a reputation as a fabulous dining destination.
Meet Drift and sample Saffron’s offerings at the Taste of Downtown Nashua event on June 6. You can also stay up to date on the new menu and specials at Saffron Bistro by joining its VIP mailing list at www.TheSaffronBistro.com.
(A very special thanks to Ali Manning of the Great American Downtown, Nashua for the incredible write up)