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Q&A with Nick Stellino -- KCTS 9 Exclusive

With season two of Cooking with Nick Stellino premiering Tuesday, March 24 at 7pm, we thought we would take a moment and give our viewers the chance to get to know Nick a bit better outside of the kitchen. Taking time out of his schedule, Nick answered our questions (and some of yours!) on his career, cooking advice, and much more!

Don’t forget to join Nick Stellino in the kitchen as he shares more delicious recipes fit for all cravings and occasions in the second season of Cooking with Nick Stellino. Premiering Tuesday, March 24 at 7pm, and continuing every Tuesday night.

–♦–

What can viewers expect from the new season of Cooking with Nick Stellino? What are you most excited to share with them?
This season has many more recipes, skillfully filmed to show every step of the way. Plus we have also increased our road trips outside of the studio. I think this is our best work ever.

You have been cooking for about twenty years – how do you keep things fresh and new in the kitchen?
When I am home, I seldom cook the same thing twice. Not because I am always rehearsing but because I like to push and always come up with new Ideas. There are several kitchen disasters which will forever go untold, but what comes out right, is absolutely spectacular, and that is what I put on my show.

What have been some of the biggest learning lessons you encountered as you built a career as a chef/businessman?
Don’t be cocky; there is always someone smarter, quicker, and faster than you. When the time comes to do battle, whatever that might be or wherever it might take place, don’t just go through the motions, play to win until your last breath, and don’t sell your soul because of money. Accept defeat when it might occur and move on. Hold no grudges, bear no envy. Leave the bravado to others. Focus on being the one who gets it done even when others are not watching.


What advice do you have for those who are new to the kitchen or hesitant to try new dishes?
Don’t cook to win a competition, cook as if you were dancing or making love. Take the time with everything you do, to do it just right. Make that moment in your kitchen count for something. Cook your food to be the best representation of you and the things you love. Accept failure as a path to success. If you never fail, you have never really tried hard enough. When it is all said and done, the best thing about cooking is to watch people eat your food and taste the magic that came out of your soul. Commit to the moment!

You live in California, but film your show in Washington. Why did you decide to film your show in Seattle?
This was God’s plan, I never knew it would be this way, but when I found my TV family at KCTS 9, I never looked back and never wanted to change a thing for 20 years. Next to my wife this is the longest, happiest and most loving relationship I have ever had.

Coming from another country where dishes and taste differ from that in America, what were some dishes or ingredients that you were hesitant to try, but ended up loving?
Hamburgers! I never got the concept right. To me ground meat is for meatballs and tomato sauce. Making a hamburger is simple, but it entails great skills, to make it taste great, so great that it could compete with a fine steak, that is a remarkable achievement.I became passionate about making hamburgers because I had to prove the point when I came to America that, McDonald’s is just a convenience store; it is not the representation of an American cuisine.

The best hamburgers in America are always in somebody’s home. I have discovered many people over the years that can make a burger far better than me, so my quest has not lessened its intensity. I would love to make the perfect hamburger… and BBQ Ribs, Philly Steak Sandwich, and Biscuits with sausage gravy and…. French fries!


Why did you choose a career in cooking? How did cooking and food play a part in your upbringing?
I was a stockbroker on Wall Street when I went to see my dying uncle Giovanni in Italy. All the cousins came to pay their respects to this man who was our second dad. When everyone left he held my hand and with his weakened voice he said: “You should not die without following your dreams.” I don’t know how he knew that I was not happy at my job. There was plenty of money, I had a nice car and many bespoke suits, but inside that pretty frame, beyond that surface of affluence, I was in hell.

A few months later, I quit my job and I started on a new culinary career - my first job was “a dishwasher” in a restaurant. I would like to tell that there was a plan I had. But I had none. All I know is that inside that kitchen, I found myself, and then I did everything I could to win. In the end I became what I am - not because I am the best. I know the best and they are better than me. I became good at what I do because it reminds me of the special moments of my youth, when everything made sense and I loved hanging out in the kitchen with Mom, Grandma and my aunts. Shamefully for me, I really do not have a great story to tell on this subject.

How has the culinary world and opportunities changed from when you first started to now?
In the last 25 years, this world has evolved at the speed of light. The opportunities have widened enormously for everyone who wishes to enter this field, but this world of ours - in the restaurant or in the TV studio - is not a walk in the park so... be careful for what you wish, you just might just get it.
As a byproduct of all this, I believe that the quality of cooking both at home and in the restaurants has greatly improved. The science of hospitality has grown by leap and bounds. I am so incredibly excited  by what I see still ahead. We are in the midst of a culinary renaissance!

You always have a cheerful disposition – what inspires you? How do you find your confidence and happiness? 
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive: to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” -Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius wrote these words over 2000 years ago and today they are as relevant as ever.
My joy and my disposition are based on the fact that every day I wake up and I have the gift of life, I walk on my own two feet. I see my wife stretching next to me, I get to pet our cats who are lying next to us , I see the views from the my bedroom window and I can breathe on my own without any difficulty. Whatever will come in the succeeding hours will define my future. Deep inside of me there is a need to win and be better than what I am; it is an incessant push that overtakes every aspect of everything I do.

Anger, regret, envy, sadness, disappointment and surrender are, to me, wasteful emotions. The future is ahead of me, I want to get there and make it just like I see it happening in my head.One day all that makes me great will be taken away from me, fear will eventually make me more cautious, illnesses and old age will attack my health, sadness might encroach my spirit and only God knows what other trial and tribulations might come to keep company  with me. But today, I am alive, ambitious, breathing, driven, focused and ready to take on the world. Give me one more battle to fight and more projects to execute; I am at my best when in constant motion.

I was not born this way, America made me who I am and I would not change that for anything. I am a Sicilian, I am an Italian, but I am first and foremost an American.This is what makes me happy and optimistic all the time!

–♦–


Don't forget to try Nick’s Halibut & Fresh Mediterranean Salsa recipe.
Photos courtesy of Therese Frare Photography.

 

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I just love his happiness and attitude toward life. It is so refreshing and it comes out in his show. I just love watching!

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