A love of food runs deep for Jason Shaffer. He took his first job in a restaurant at age 13 and never looked back. Born and raised in Bradford, PA, Shaffer spent nine years honing his culinary chops in New Orleans, where he fell in love with the fast-paced, unpredictable life of a restaurant chef.

Though he moved back to Pennsylvania and started a family, Shaffer didn’t leave the hectic restaurant world behind. For nearly three years, Shaffer has been the Executive Chef at Braddock’s Pittsburgh Brasserie, the restaurant inside Downtown’s beautiful Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. Shaffer heads up the menu of French-inspired fusion cuisine, which features seasonal, local ingredients in rustic French classics like mussels and coq au vin.

Food is a family affair for Shaffer. His wife is also a part of Downtown’s bustling restaurant scene, working as a butcher at the Capital Grille. And Shaffer’s young son even shares his love of sushi. Shaffer and his son (and a whole lot of other folks) chowed down on their favorite food at a blowout birthday celebration last week.

The best meal I ate last week was at Nakama on the South Side. I went there for my birthday with about thirty people—other chefs, bartenders and lots of close friends. My wife and son were there, too. He’s 11 but he’s already a foodie. We got a private room and had a really great time.

I’m a sushi junkie, so we had about nine different rolls. The dragon roll (shrimp, eel, cucumber, avocado and cream cheese) there is awesome. We also did the teppanyaki table, which is always a good time. The guys are really, really talented down there.

For sushi, it’s all about the quality of the fish. I’ve never had a bad experience at Nakama. You really get what you pay for there, and you know the fish is going to be fresh and top notch. Nakama has a few locations (including two food trucks), but it definitely doesn’t feel like a chain. The service is always excellent and the atmosphere is a lot of fun.

Looking for other Pittsburgh foodies’ best meals? Click here.

Drew Cranisky is a writer, bartender and recent graduate of Chatham University's Food Studies program. He enjoys cats, pinball and fancy burgers.