Visit with a Chef: Nicolas Novello

We visited with Chef Nicolas Novello of The Skillet Group to find out what keeps him going. Nick is Executive Chef of the group’s four Skillet concepts located in downtown Seattle, Seattle Center, Ballard and Capitol Hill.

Chef Nick Novello in The Skillet Diner kitchen.
Chef Nicolas Novello in the Skillet Diner kitchen.

Where does your passion for sourcing high quality, sustainable ingredients stem from?

Growing up as a young kid in Southern California, North County San Diego Vista, we had a lot of cattle and produce that was mostly all a sustainable, small, family kind of a deal. From then on I learned that sustainability equates to better flavored products. There’s a moral necessity within myself and Skillet to make sure we’re selling the best product we can. We also want to make sure our customers are getting the best flavor they can. Those two themes live pretty harmoniously.

What empowers you the most about being Executive Chef of The Skillet Group?

One of the things I was told when I was brought on here was to “run this restaurant like you own it” and “make sure everything you do you would do with your own restaurant.” That’s how I’ve approached every job, so it’s been a great fit. My ideology and the owners’ ideology matched up from the start. That’s why I’ve stayed here.

What really empowers us here is our customers’ willingness to pay a little extra to have products that are sustainably raised and of higher quality. We want to support our farmers and producers, our local distributors, and everybody down the road. We’re lucky enough to be in these different neighborhoods where people let us go above and beyond. We definitely have a great community around us that wants us to do the things we do and stand on the morals we stand on – it’s all about our customers.

Why do you use Niman Ranch meats?

It goes back to quality and sustainability. We like to utilize your products as much as we can because they’re high quality, sustainable products from the right producers. You guys go the extra mile and not only set your program goals and your farming standards, you actually go to the farm and check to make sure they meet those standards. You don’t just check the livestock levels at time of harvest – your team goes to the farm, checks the feed and makes sure the farmers are doing things right. Not many other companies offer that.

I’ve been to feed lots in eastern Washington that wean off their animals from growth promotants. They don’t care at time of harvest whether or not it’s had antibiotics before. I just have a different outlook on it as a chef. I get the whole trying to feed the world thing, but I’m just trying to feed the people of downtown Seattle, Ballard and Capitol Hill the best food possible.

What excites you about your future at Skillet?

I look forward to always refining our program. As programs change and palates change, we want to stay innovative with our customers. We don’t want to be stagnant, doing the same thing on the menu all the time. We want to push the envelope and do things differently. As the future unravels, you can see people going in a more sustainable direction, which is great for us. Not just sustainable for the environment, but sustainable for the farmers to raise and catch, ensuring they don’t go commodity. There was a time when hog farmers were docked for having too much back fat on their animals. People are starting to learn now that pork isn’t the other white meat. We’re lucky to be a part of that movement. We can’t wait to not only grow as a company but also take our morals and standards with us.

 

You can dine at any of The Skillet’s four locations in the greater Seattle area:

Skillet Regrade
2050 6th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 512-2002

Skillet Diner – Capitol Hill
1400 East Union Street
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 512-2001

Skillet Diner – Ballard
2034 NW 56th Street
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 922-7981

Skillet Counter at Seattle Center
305 Harrison Street
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 428-6311

 

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