An entrepreneur, celebrity chef, social media megastar, heartthrob, and cookbook author Nick DiGiovanni has cooked up quite a unique and triumphant career thus far: starting as an apprentice in a variety of kitchens before heading to Harvard University, where he created the first-ever undergraduate food degree. Nick also competed on the 10th season of ‘MasterChef’, making history as the show’s youngest-ever finalist. Since then he created his own salt company ‘Osmo’ and his debut cookbook ‘Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook’ released on 13th June.
You started off your career in cooking as an apprentice in a variety of kitchens, including a Michelin restaurant. What initially got you into cooking?
Family. I grew up surrounded by family that loved to cook and loved to feed. I quickly realized that I, too, shared that same love for food.
How was it to work at the 3-star Michelin restaurant ‘Benu‘ in San Francisco? Are there any moments that stand out to you from your time working there?
Two words, cleanliness and preparation. It was the smoothest, best-run kitchen I’ve ever trained in. The cooks came in as early as 9 or 10 am, if not earlier some days, and by the time dinner service started everything was so well prepped that the service was typically a breeze.
After your apprentice work at restaurants, you went to Harvard University where you created the first-ever undergraduate food degree. How did this whole process come about? Was there any pushback in regards to this?
My application for this special degree was rejected the first time. I worked so incredibly hard, along with a number of professors who believed in me and believed in the merit and concept of a major around food, so it was disheartening to be rejected the first time around. But, we kept pushing and simply didn’t take no for an answer and ultimately created the first-ever food major at Harvard.
What was it like to have your thesis advised by Michael Pollan, who is a very influential food writer?
I had several fantastic advisors for my senior thesis, Michael Pollan being one of them, and learned so much throughout the process. He is certainly one of the best food writers to have ever lived, so there was no better person to have as a mentor for something like this.
After that, you also competed on season 10 of ‘MasterChef‘, making history being the youngest ever finalist. What was your experience like on the show?
I learned to be fearless in the kitchen. I left the ‘MasterChef’ kitchen feeling so much more confident in the kitchen and well-equipped to teach others all that I’d learned.
Which moment stands out to you the most from being on ‘MasterChef‘?
Getting to know the real side of Gordon Ramsay, who’s one of the kindest, most humble and caring mentors I’ve ever had.
You created your salt company ‘Osmo‘. What pushed you to create this company? And why salt?
I wanted to create something that my fans could bring into their kitchens at home, something that I had created. They always get to watch my videos, but never get the chance to actually taste my food, so as simple as something like salt may sound, it’s something that I had a real part in creating and will hopefully give people a small taste of what I’m experiencing every day in my own kitchen.
On your social media you share cooking videos, instructional videos and more. How is it to be recognised on such a large scale for doing what you love?
Growing up, I always heard people say something along the lines of “Do what you love and don’t worry about the rest”, and I didn’t understand that until I was able to do this full-time. The best thing in life is finding and then following your true passion and I’m so fortunate to wake up each day and do what I love, all while hopefully helping and inspiring others.
You are releasing your debut cookbook named ‘Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook’. What inspired you to do your own cookbook? Can you tell us about the recipes we can expect in this book?
I have always loved sharing my passion for food and this cookbook is a collection of everything I’ve ever learned. It’s filled with delicious, accessible and creative recipes that I truly believe will inspire people all over the world.
Nick, when you are not cooking, what are your other passions in life?
I love my family and friends. I love to surf and play ice hockey, and I love activities in general. You’ll never find me sitting still.
Photographer: Sarah Partain
Stylist: Janelle Arreola
Groomer: Jaime Maloney