Chef/owner Nelson Cognac is no stranger to the kitchen, with over 30  years of industry experience and two successful restaurants in his span; Cognac is ready to embark on his next culinary journey.

Cognac spent nearly a third of his career in San Francisco, garnering notoriety as Executive Chef of industry staples Bistro Roti and Grand Café of The Kimpton Group. It was in his early days, under the leadership of mentor, Larry Vito, that Cognac began experimenting with local ingredients, developing culinary concoctions based on seasonal meats and produce, and establishing relationships with local farms. It was during this time that Cognac began laying the bricks that would later become the foundation to both his  successful establishments, Kouzina and Cognac Bistro.

Cognac later returned home to Massachusetts and quickly settled in as a part of Todd English’s Olive Group. Soon after, Cognac gained the title of Executive Chef at Harvest, of the Himmel Group. It was during his tenure at Harvest that Cognac’s skills were tested and affirmed as he led the culinary team and created weekly menus that featured the best of local, seasonally available ingredients. However, it wasn’t long until Cognac felt the urge to embark on his biggest challenge yet… opening his own restaurant.

It was in October 2001, that Cognac and his wife/partner Joanna, opened their Mediterranean inspired neighborhood eatery, Kouzina. Touching upon Joanna’s Greek heritage, the menu focused on fresh dips, flatbread pizzas, and classic Mediterranean fare such as Braised Lamb Shank ‘Giouvetsi’ and Ground Beef & Béchamel ‘Patitsio’, all prepared and plated with Cognac’s bona fide culinary expertise and artistry. Located in Waban, a small village of Newton, Kouzina opened its doors to immediate success and became a neighborhood favorite for 11 years. “The spotlight shines on the big players… but that’s not where all the action is – as anyone who’s seen the tiny dining room of Kouzina can attest. Well beyond what one might expect at a small restaurant, the chicken shows Cognac’s mastery…” - Alison Arnett, The Boston Globe

Nine years later, Cognac dove into his next venture, this time gaining influence from the rich, sophisticated flavors of his French heritage. The result was Cognac Bistro, a mélange of classic French flavors and New England fare. The restaurant, housed in a converted gas station, had all the charm of a small Parisian hideaway, complete with a full bar and raw bar serving up local oysters and seafood; and all of this tucked away in Brookline. Keeping with the theme of his surname, the zinc inspired bar boasted over 19 cognacs and mixologist, Michael Costa, served up house infusions and specialty cocktails worthy of the sophisticated flavors rousing out of the kitchen. Much like its predecessor, Cognac Bistro was an immediate neighborhood favorite, and in 2011, won the coveted Best of Boston Neighborhood Eats Award. 

In 2012, Nelson & Joanna left Boston for the country and settled in the small ski town of Jay, VT. The Northeast Kingdom, a neighbor to nearby Quebec, supplied the perfect backdrop for Cognac to continue creating his French inspired dishes. However, for his third restaurant Cognac opted for a rustic, American meets Austrian meets Mediterranean menu, featuring local game and hearty comfort foods such as Baby Back Ribs with a Maple-Ouzo glaze and his very own twist on the Quebec favorite, Poutine. The restaurant sits a mere 5 miles away from Jay Peak Resort, and overlooks the peak in which it gets its name, Big Jay.

Former restaurant Cognac Bistro.
Former restaurant Kouzina.