Chef Spotlight: Nicole O'Brien of THE PANDERING PIG in NYC
Chef Nicole O'Brien was born and raised in Marin County, California, where she grew up in the kitchen cooking with her mom from the cookbooks of Julia Child and James Beard, soaking up each recipe. At her family home in Marin and then in Sonoma, meals were abundant with local organic California ingredients and dinnertime was always the main event. In New York City she took on the position as a private chef creating healthy gourmet meals for a celebrity clientele with very specific palates. Stumbling upon an available restaurant space in her own Hudson Heights neighborhood three years ago, she was determined to make it her own. Through the support of her husband, Senator O'Brien and an angel investor, Chef O'Brien took her passion for cooking and created a truly original dining experience bringing The Pandering Pig to life in 2015.
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
When I was 7-8 years old, I would have so much fun taking ingredients form my mom's kitchen, usually along the lines of flour, sugar, herbs, cocoa powder that I would then take to my 'kitchen' under the backyard porch and make little culinary creations.
Who were some of your career mentors?
My mom and step-dad were my greatest influences. Dinner was an event in our home every night. Menu ideas were discussed early on in the day and we all, my parents and siblings, participated in creating, eating and clearing the nightly fare.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I'm a huge Francophile. I really delight in fresh, earthy, home grown, farm raised, hand tended ingredients. Rich, fresh and delicious. Creamy, dense cheeses, rounded sauces, fresh fruits and veggies.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
I would say, in line with the last question, that I balance fats, sweet and savory well. For example, my spin on jus for my meats involves unexpected spicing that gives layers you might not otherwise find.
What is your favorite meal?
On my day off, I always find myself eating fresh basil, a beautiful baguette, fresh mozzarella, balsamic and olive oil. It's what I always seem to crave!
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
My restaurant is a sweet, cozy intimate, romantic place. The mood is mellow, filled with candles, jazz, fine wine and yummy food.
The Pandering Pig is located at 209 Pinehurst Avenue, New York, NY 10033. It is a short walk from the A Train 181st Street Station. They are closed Monday and Tuesday. They are open on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm and on Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Call them at 212.781.3124 and visit: https://www.thepanderingpig.com/.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chef Nicole O'Brien