Jimmy's on Congress logo

Meet Rachel and Chef Nate — and imagine holding a memorable gathering in this one-of-a-kind space

When you take a peek inside Jimmy’s, it is easy to imagine a lavish soiree at this spectacularly restored 1905 downtown Portsmouth landmark. Or an important corporate function, fundraiser or memorable private party. Or a bride and groom exchanging their vows on the grand stage where top-tier jazz and blues artists pour their emotions into making music that inspires the heart and soul.

First and foremost a home for world-class music and next-level culinary experiences, Jimmy’s also hosts special events — and the private events held at this one-of-a-kind venue are very special indeed. Two of the key people involved in bringing such celebrations to life actually worked closely together doing something quite similar in a past life.

Rachel Huddleston, Event Sales Director at Jimmy’s, and Nathan Varney, the club’s executive chef, are enjoying their own dynamic duo version of “getting the band back together” — following up on an impressive record of success staging memorable functions at the AAA four-diamond Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, NH.

For Rachel, five years spent booking and coordinating events and ensuring satisfaction for guests at the majestic 1865 hotel complex in heart of the White Mountains dovetailed with her own commitment to excellence and impeccably “high standards.” Passionate about taking pride in her work and deeply invested in ensuring that guests “leave having great memories,” she smiles as she says, “I can’t do it any other way.” As an event planner, she also sees herself as a “problem solver,” and notes that “my mindset has always been ‘yes’.”

Hers is a job that includes gracefully choreographing seamless solutions to unforeseen circumstances, staying calm and focused on “treating people how they deserve to be treated.” And she is grateful to have high-caliber teammates who are equally committed to high-level hospitality excellence.

Chef Nathan Varney is not only a seriously talented culinary artist, “Nate is probably the chilliest chef I’ve ever worked with,” says Rachel. He is also someone gets a bit philosophical when discussing his passion for food and his fascination with the “art and science” of cooking. In a sense, he says, his life’s work is about “the pursuit of deliciousness.”

“We have a really great culinary community here in the Seacoast,” says Nate, who offers a creative, evolving menu that fuses southern-influenced styles, techniques and spices with fresh, locally sourced ingredients from New Hampshire and southern Maine.

The southern influence springs from his years as a senior chef in New Orleans (universally regarded as the birthplace of jazz) — the local influence from his roots as a NH native who is passionate about cultivating personal connections with nearby farmers and fishermen to source the freshest produce, meats and seafood for his farm-to-table menus. At the Mountain View Grand, he and his team even started a small farm on the premises, striving to ensure that nearly all food served at the resort was sourced locally and prepared in-house.

The now-common terms farm-to-table and sea-to-table mean something deeper to Chef Nate, who observes that “farm-to-table is such a broad term that the full meaning is not represented in the phrase.” You hear a sense of reverence in his voice as he speaks about “showing respect” to the ingredients and the farmers who cultivate them — and genuine modesty regarding his role in preparing and presenting the special dishes he serves to guests with a dash of “we made this for you.” Says philosopher-chef Nate, “If you cook selflessly, I think that translates into flavor on the plate.”

His professional gastronomic journey includes mastering the fundamentals of classic French cuisine in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia; fine-tuning his approach to fine dining and high standards at five-star Lautrec south of Pittsburgh; and full immersion in the melting pot of indigenous, French, Spanish, African and soul food influences that characterize the diverse cuisine of New Orleans.

Three years in Louisiana whet his appetite for a return to his native NH — first at the Mountain View Grand and now here at 135 Congress Street, where he and Rachel and the rest of the team at Jimmy’s are thrilled to be building something truly special. “When we worked together previously, we really had to build from the ground up how catering and banquets worked,” says Nate. Having that experience gives them a strong foundation on which to curate unforgettable experiences for each group of guests. 

They are also excited to be inviting people to enjoy a singularly spectacular meeting place that has a personality and charm unlike any other. Jimmy’s is distinguished by an array of unique architecturally diverse and inspiring spaces — balconies perched overlooking the main stage; opulently appointed VIP areas; intimate rooms with fireplaces and bay windows overlooking Congress Street; a towering glass-and-steel atrium — each designed to bring people together … and set your event apart.

Learn more about hosting your special event at Jimmy’s

Contact Rachel Huddleston: rachel@jimmysoncongress.com