Trender: Cook & Brown Founder/Chef Nemo Bolin

Monday, August 22, 2011


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Who are the Rhode Islanders leading in arts, fashion, food, and style? They're Trenders, and GoLocalProv offers glimpses of the people you most want to know on the scene. Today, chef/restaurateur Nemo Bolin, whose Cook & Brown Public House has made a splash not only in Rhode Island, but nationwide.

Where were you born? Albion, CA
Where did you go to school? The Peddie School (high school), Union College, Cambridge School of Culinary Arts
Where do you live now? Providence
Your age: 32

What do you like about being a chef in Rhode Island?

It's a great community here.  There are a ton of great chefs and cooks in Rhode Island and everyone is supportive of each other.  But it is also just a great food community. People care about where their food comes from and they are proud of their neighborhood restaurant, which means a lot to us as chefs, to have a loyal customer base that really appreciates what you do.
What are your three favorite locally-sourced ingredients? What do you make with them?

There are so many, it's difficult to narrow it down to just three.  Off the top of my head I would say:  Narragansett Creamery Cheese, especially the ricotta.  We use it all the time, especially in a really light gnocchi that only has 4 ingredients (ricotta, eggs, a small amount of flour and a pinch of salt).  They're really awesome. Of course fish, in general, is ridiculous around here.  We have so many options all the time.  Fin fish, shellfish, crustaceans.  This area has the best fishing grounds in the world and we certainly reap the benefits.  I'm loving the tomatoes from White Barn Farm right now... in everything.  We half-jokingly said that we should offer anything on the menu with the option of adding some sliced heirloom tomatoes. 

Who or what inspired you to cook? Who on the local food scene—farmer, chef, fisherman—do you follow and why?

Being raised on Martha's Vineyard, where there was access to tons of fresh, real food was a big part.  There are no fast food chains there and people really care about what they are eating (back in the early 80's this was a much bigger deal).  So, having a garden in the back yard that gave us simple things like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and being able to cook with them, just-picked was amazing.  Plus I grew up in a fishing family and we always had fresh seafood.  Also, Julia Child and the Great Chefs series.  Those were fantastic, old-school cooking shows that showed professional cooking, not just home-cooked meals.

Also, I have a great relationship with Rich Cook from the Local Catch.  There are a lot of similarities between what we do and what they're doing. Running a small business is difficult, so it's nice to see some other people who care as much as you do.

What is your favorite food memory from your childhood? Is there anything from back then (Spaghetti Os, Spam) that you still indulge on occasion?

I always loved communal events.  In the summer we always had family dinners at my grandparents' house with aunts, uncles, cousins.  Those were great because it always seemed festive even though we had the dinners 3 or 4 times a summer.  And the food was simple but really great.  Steamers and lobster with corn on the cob and sliced beefsteak tomatoes.  Grilled whole tenderloin with crumbled blue cheese.  Fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

I definitely rock bags of gummi bears when I have a sweet tooth.  Reminds me of the penny candy store that was down the block from my house.

It's your last meal and your favorite chef in all the world has offered to cook for you. Who is the chef and what does he or she make for you?

I've never been to his restaurant before but I think it would be Michel Bras.  His food is steeped in fundamentals and great techniques but is also very visionary, with amazing ingredients.  I think if you ever get a chance like that you just have to let the person create for you.  Say "Cook whatever you feel like right now" because you know it's going to be incredible.


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