INHABIT: CHEF NICK GRECCO AT HOME

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Inhabit is a series by local photographer David Lawrence (Website), that shares stories about the people who call Orlando home. It’s an exploration of where people live and spend their days, whether that be at home, in an office, the streets of downtown, or anywhere in between. Lawrence explores who people are and how they ended there.

Every other week we will be sharing Lawrence’s interviews, featuring a different Orlandoan and telling the story of the places they inhabit. Lawrence is available for private photography projects and can be reached through his website, above.

*This interview was transcribed and edited from an audio interview.

Who are you?

Nick: Nick Grecco, 27 years old. I’m from New York City originally, but was raised in Fort Lauderdale. Seven years ago I moved to Orlando. I’m a chef but also a food lover. [Food has] been in my family my whole life. My sister was a pastry chef and my Father owned pizzerias in New York City.

Where are we currently and what is important to you about the space?

Nick: We’re currently in my home, I’ve lived here for one year now. What’s significant about this place is that it’s something that I’ve never had before with my new fiance Jessica. I love Mills 50. I think it’s who we are as people. I can practice, learn, and do everything I’ve always wanted to do in a professional kitchen, but here and in the comfort of my own home. It’s really cool, to be honest, I love it.

I’ve done some small projects for family and friends, from sous-vide’ing, to using immersion blenders, all that fun stuff. It’s really just that I can be my own person here and not listen to anybody, if that makes sense.

What’s your favorite dish to cook when you’re at home?

Nick: I’m a big seafood guy, really big seafood guy. I love throwing seafood on the grill. Even if it’s crab in the shell, with lots of butter and just letting the barbecue give off it’s natural flavors. That’s my go-to. I also do like breakfast, smoked salmon and a bagel after waking up in the morning. I love keeping it super simple.

I love cooking Jewish cuisine. I think something so simple as a pastrami sandwich on rye is the best thing ever.

I want to hear more about the family aspect of everything. Your Dad is Italian. Your Mom is Jewish. Walk me through what meals looked like as a kid.

Nick: Sunday night dinner was your traditional Italian chicken marsala, linguine and clams. Then when you do the High Holidays, it was the gefilte fish, the brisket, the roasted chicken, all that stuff. Then just going to Grandma’s house and having the spread of turkey, bagels, tuna, and egg salad, and all the stuff you see at your traditional Katz’s Deli. I grew up eating that. I think meshing the two cultures is awesome, but at the same time, that Jewish culture is gone.

It’s sad living in Orlando, that no one can experience or grasp that culture. TooJays is the most they’re going to get here and that’s sad to me.

Nick has spent years working at some of Orlando’s finest restaurants. Currently he works as the Culinary Director at Black Bean Deli. I wanted to hear how he ended up there.

Nick: Story was, I was leaving Cask & Larder one night, and honestly, it was just time for a new venture, just trying to better myself and my family, and just grow up as a person. The lights were on and Black Bean wasn’t even open yet. It was 2:30 in the morning, I was like, “Let me take Colonial home this time.” I banged on the door and Andy’s [The owner of Black Bean] sitting there. I’m in my chef whites, and he goes, “What can I help you with?” I said, “I just need a job. I’m a kitchen guy, I can prep and do whatever you need me to do.”

Four years later, I’m the culinary director for them. I’m running their whole food program. I love it. We’re like family now. They’ve given me opportunities I never thought I’d have before, just meeting people and getting to know a part of the community that I never thought I’d be a part of.

Can you tell me how you’ve dealt with working long hours in high stress environments?

I  think going to the gym, having a healthy balance– You still have to have fun. You still have to be able to have friends and be able to go out. You still have to be able to go try other chefs’ food. I think that’s super important. I think traveling is the most important thing about this industry. For myself, there’s nothing better than to go and see a new city, and not have an itinerary and just walk around.

Also, have a good support system and family on your side, and have fun too. Don’t make this just about work. Have fun; people don’t realize that. Still party, still be young, and that’s really it.

What’s up next for you?

Nick: I’m definitely working on some secret projects that I don’t really want to reveal too much. If you take a look at some of the photos we’re taking in this article, you can get the gist of it. Take a look at my Instagram (@nickinthekitchen), see what else I can do. We just did a pop-up cocktail party at Mathers’ [Social Gathering] two weeks ago. I’m just being a chef and having fun, and I think there’s a really cool avenue for me in this town. I’m growing and I’m just happy to be here, learning everyday.

About the photographer: 

David Lawrence is an Orlando-based photographer with a passion for people and storytelling. Lawrence lives in Colonialtown with his wife, Dawn, and when he’s not taking photos he occasionally attends church, drinks a lot of coffee, and overall just tries to be a kind human.

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