Nick Novello has traveled some miles between his first job at age 13 at Fisherman's Restaurant in San Clemente, California and current role as chef de cuisine for both Skillet Diners. A role he would not have, he says, if it weren't for a cooking style honed on a journey south along the Alaskan Highway, stopping for kitchen stints that lasted just long enough to pay for more gas. Novello says the trip taught him "to look at food as multiple layers of flavor."
Before joining the team at Skillet, Novello spent time at the Matador, La Luna, Local 360, and Toulouse Petit, but his favorite memories came working for former Seattle SuperSonics star Shawn Kemp at Oskar's Cafe. "Shawn is a really good guy," he recalls. "He’s been there for me on multiple levels… I had no family out here and he took a leap with me. We made some really good food in that place."
Here are some of Nick's favorite things (besides working with Shawn Kemp):
People I'd like to cook with: John Sundstrom. His food is right up my alley. There are a couple of people I really miss cooking with: Eric Donnelly and Charles Slonaker. Eric was a big help in me being able to look at a kitchen no matter how crazy and put it together. Charles always brightened up my day. We put some really good food in the window.
Breakfast dish: Its got to be our Chub, the breakfast sandwich of them all. Add a fried chicken thigh for an even tastier chub.
Can't live without: My phone and wife. Its odd how the two things I can't live without can't stand each other... my wife hates my phone.
Place to eat on a day off: I'm a Green Leaf junkie. If you come at the right time they will sometimes whip some bone marrow into the pho broth.
Dish to impress guests: Random as it sounds, doughnuts. The doughnuts at Skillet are one of my best creations; warm fluffy and so good.
Guilty pleasure: I'm an SVU and Frito pie addict.
Secret ingredient: SHH... don't tell anyone... it's salt
On the wish list: I'd like to go on Chopped. It seems like a real challenge. I'd be so stressed out, I miss that.
Kitchen pet peeve: Too many people in the kitchen. I can't work knocking pelvises with people.