Chef Jason Marcus and his wife Heather opened Traif restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in April of 2010.
After cooking professionally for about 10 years, Chef Jason began thinking about opening his own restaurant. At the time, he was cooking in Los Angeles. After the restaurant closed, he’d make the specialty staff meal, braised chicken with bacon. When the staff told him how it was the best chicken dish they'd ever tasted, he’d tell them "Of course it is! There's bacon in the sauce." That was the moment he decided to build a restaurant with the foundation being pork.
When thinking of what to name the restaurant, he immediately thought of the name "Traif," the Yiddish word for any sort of unkosher food. Wanting to get back home, Jason knew that if he opened a restaurant, it had to be in New York. So that's exactly what he did. The process of opening a restaurant in Manhattan proved both complicated and costly, so he and Heather began looking in Williamsburg. They quickly liked the idea of being in a developing neighborhood with more of a communal feel. In Williamsburg, they were hesitant to open a restaurant called “Traif,” because the neighborhood borders the largest Hasidic Jewish population outside of Jerusalem. However, after research and debate, and a healthy dose of keeping their fingers crossed, they decided to take the chance in Williamsburg.
During the process of starting the restaurant, the concept of Traif began to have even more meaning to Jason. As a chef, he loved cooking with pork and shellfish. As a reform Jew, he loved the idea that the restaurant was an expression of himself, a chef and Jew not afraid to break rules/traditions in order to be himself. There was a fair amount of controversy around the name and place of Traif, but the reality was that he and Heather opened the restaurant not as an act of defiance but of self-expression. Cooking is highly personal and opening a restaurant requires a tremendous sacrifice of time, physical energy, emotion, and money. So, they wanted to make their restaurant mean something from the product to the name. To Jason, the idea of Traif is a highly complex idea which embodies him as a chef and Jewish person.
Over 6 years since the doors opened, Traif is still going strong and continues to inspire Chef Jason to express himself through his craft.