Full Exclusive interview with Nick Stellino

Nick Stellino has been on public television for more than 25 years and is known for his storytelling, (as well as his love of well-tailored suits we see on Create TV’s bumpers) while teaching viewers how to cook each dish, hence his recent show “Storyteller in the Kitchen,” which airs on KLCS’ Create TV (58.3). He lives in Los Angeles, but his old show was filmed in Seattle, so we ask about that change to his home kitchen. He also talks to KLCS about his favorite place to food shop in Los Angeles, his moment with Julia Child and what the aim of his show is now.

Nick, you use to cook in a studio in Seattle, but now you cook in your home kitchen, how was that transition?

It was one of the most difficult things I ever did in my life. Working in the kind of studio facilities I had at KCTS in Seattle was a breeze. Had the same team for 20 years and we were like a family. I loved going to work everyday with such a group of great friends. Working in my kitchen at home brought out the realest form of me but, cooking in my own kitchen, which was not designed for TV production was akin to a small disaster. Everything that could go wrong did. Private planes going overhead, the air conditioning being too loud, the leaf blowers of my neighbors gardeners, construction sites all around us. You name it, we went through it; yet, in spite of it all I think that together with my production team, we created a whole new look to a common cooking show. Something that helps us all connect food, love and life!

How did your show come about and what is the aim of your show?

It is a record of my life at this time and point. The man I have become, the way is speak of food is not from a point of privilege, rather it is from the point of view of a little boy who always wants to play in the kitchen with his friends. Turns out I am a far more skilled storyteller than I am a chef. And that is just fine with me.

What was your path to being a chef and what made you originally want to cook on TV?
I wanted to tell a beautiful story about food, love and family. That was not easy. Long before I was blessed with success I went through a most difficult journey. I was accompanied along the way by fear, disappointment, failure, anger, purpose, drive, intent, resilience, ambition, vision, determination, stance, strength, will to fight, kindness, gentleness, and love above all; [these] are the emotions that have shaped my adventure. There is nothing remarkable about me. I am no more or no less than the people that walk around me. TV is an illusion; fame is a drug. Wealth in terms of dollars, for the sole sake of the almighty dollar, is a condemnation to hell on earth. I am no shrinking violet, I am no poet, and I am not an artist. I am a man amongst men who, daily, gets a chance to do it all over again with the ambition of doing it better, for once. As for the romance of being the stockbroker who became a dishwasher who became a guy who cooks on TV, well, I do not know what to say about that. It was not how I planned it, but I will tell you this, when I saw an opening, I went through it head first into the darkness, without a net. The most paralyzing emotion is fear. I am a man who fights against it on a daily basis.

You enjoy talking about your family, and the old days in Italy, will you ever have any of them on your show or return to Italy to film some episodes?
No, everyone has passed away now. And the sole survivor, my Aunt Bulkiti is afraid of flying so I still call her every Sunday and we talk about life and the memories of those we have lost, in the end we always end up talking about food.
Do you have a favorite dish that you make?
Pasta al filetto di pomodoro. (https://www.nickstellino.com/recipe/fillet-of-tomatoes-pasta/)
What’s the most frequent question you get and what is your response?
More than a question is an observation. I am 6’2”, 230 pounds, in a modicum of good shape with a modest bit of belly. People most often say, “Wow, you are taller than I thought!” I was born this way! My mom always reminded me I was a big boy since the very breath of life.

You can tell you really enjoy your job showing people how to cook. What keeps you going?
Life has a finite amount of moments; I do not want to die without at least accomplishing some of my dreams, even if it is just the perfect plate of pasta!

Almost everyone has had a Julia Child story or that she influenced them; do you have a Julia story? 
I had dinner with her one year. I was so amazed she knew my name; I walked on stardust for the whole week. The woman was witty and boy, she could easily drink me under the table!  She had class and style.

Do ever just pinch yourself you get to do this for a living and follow in her footsteps of educating people about food and cooking on TV?
No, I am envious of nobody, I owe nothing to nobody, whatever I got I made it happen, I am not a slave to a big boss, I took all the chances alone, I failed alone, I always paid my debts. I did all I did on my own and what I built is solely based on mine and my wife’s efforts. I am the last one of a long series of gladiators. To me the ultimate compliment is to be invited to the arena and fight one more time. The fact that I am good at what I do, well that is a continuous inner drive that pushes me always forward. Being able to teach people how to cook, that, is a privilege.

Do you get feedback that your show is a guilty pleasure in a noisy world? Do you get feedback people are cooking more and cooking your recipes more?
In the old days I used to do a lot of personal appearances; I stopped that 10 years ago. So my contact with my fans is very sparse, but from what I see on my IG page and my Facebook page, we reach roughly beyond 250,000 people with every post we make. Turns out I am actually popular and that surprised me a bit.

What is your average day like?
I wake up every morning and look at my wife sleeping with one cat on her head and another cat on her tummy, while her hand sheepishly caresses his tummy. So from the very moment I get up, I already got all I want, the rest is all gravy.
 Since you live in Los Angeles, what are some favorite places to food-shop or dine in LA?
Monte Carlo Italian Deli in Burbank; I don’t do restaurants. My home is my favorite restaurant! Plus I love cleaning dishes since I started as a dish-washer and I adore shining my copper pots. Dinner at my home is an event every night. I did not buy my fancy dinnerware to stay in a closet. I did not buy my gleaming copper cookware to sit unused. All I have is part of my daily life. I am a bit of a tornado. Plus I am in love and I always want to make the best dishes I make better, just so I can see one more of my wife Nanci’s smiles.
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 You can catch Nick Stellino: Storyteller in the Kitchen on KLCS’s Create TV (58.3) Thursdays and Saturdays at 4 PM. You can see more of Nick’s recipes and cooking tips on Create TV’s website (createtv.com/search/nick+stellino) or his website (nickstellino.com).
Additionally, keep up with Nick’s social media on Instagram: instagram.com/chefstellino/, or Twitter: twitter.com/chefstellino/.

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