Interview with Nick Stellino, Celebrated Chef and TV Host

Food, Family and a Whole Lotta Love

Many of you may know Nick Stellino, the famous chef of Italian-Sicilian decent, from hosting the popular  PBS cooking show, Cucina Amore or Nick Stellino’s Family Kitchen. He is also the author of 12 cookbooks. Nick has made guest appearances on shows including ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as on Italian television. He has been featured in publications including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana and Robb Report.

What is captivating about Nick is his passion for cooking and his love of storytelling.  I always looked forward to watching his show that served up great recipes along with a side of fond memories of his family and the Sicilian culture. He usually started the show with pictures of his family and wonderful stories that led the way to his delicious recipes which not only looked mouthwatering but he always made it look so easy and fun. He shared the soul of his family with the viewers and it felt like we were invited to his table as part of the family. 

His authenticity, his warmth and his heart were the main ingredients of the show.

What is passion and how do we tap into it?

I really don’t have a formula. The only truth I know is that we are all going to die one day and I don’t want to waste my life. The key is to find the things you enjoy and that fill you with joy. Then, you go for it. Find out what you want to do and  make the choice to do it.

Following your passion is not like pushing a button and it just happens. You need to find the ways to do it.

There’s a Sicilian proverb my father used to say, “Money makes a wonderful slave but a horrible master”. I decided not to be a slave. My pride made me stand up and work hard. I made my choice. I’ve had a 27 year career on television where I did everything from producing my own show to its distribution. I subscribed to my passion. I became that way because of what my family taught me and how I grew up. As a result, I became famous by accident.

How does one nourish the soul?

To nourish the soul you need to be thankful for having been granted the gift of grace.

I believe if you are not thankful, you will always be unhappy. I have always been grateful for everyone and everything, good and bad. I am blessed with my life, my lovely wife and I feel very lucky. 

It is important to make peace as you live your life and follow the things you believe in.

What is the key ingredient to getting through difficult times?

We need to remember that we’re all in it together. We make our own reality. With what’s going on in the world today, I feel it is dulling the senses.  It’s a good idea to lighten up especially with all that goes on in your head. 

One day as I was sitting on a rock by the ocean, I was praying and asking for help. I was the only person there and wouldn’t you know it, out of nowhere as I was looking up, this bird flies over my head and delivers a major dropping on my face and all over my beard. I was so happy and shouted, “Thank you God!” When I told my wife this story she didn’t realize how great this was. For Italians, when a bird poops on you, it’s considered good luck. If you look around, there are signs everywhere. You just need to become aware and tune into what’s happening around you.

What is the recipe for being happy?

Being thankful is being able to see the lessons you’ve learned as well as being able to move on.  And don’t forget, when you are happy, pass it on and share it with others.

One should realize that it’s not everyday that you will be happy but on those days that you aren’t, realize that this too will pass just like the clouds do in the sky.

Another ingredient is to stop blaming others, stop blaming things, stop blaming the weather, stop blaming the devil and stop blaming the universe. Take responsibility. If you were wrong or failed, admit it, learn from it, shut up and move on. It’s a choice.

One of the best thing that ever happen to me was when my left knee got torn up while I was playing football. I couldn’t play anymore and had to undergo 8 months of rehabilitation to learn to walk. I never complained. This experience taught me discipline, focus and willpower.  It also taught me that whatever I put my mind to, I can do.

Whoever knew that this small kid from Palermo, who barely spoke English, would one day become a TV host.

The recipe only works if you believe in what you do and in yourself.

And don’t forget to look for inspiration. It comes from everywhere around you, even if it’s the grocery boy smiling at you. It’ll make your day and make you want to smile too.

If you were to host dinner for five people from the past, who would you invite and what would you serve?

I would definitely invite my father, grandfather, mother and grandmother. Actually, I would invite all the relatives. I would love to be able to speak to them to understand their life choices and  what it meant to have me in their lives.  It would be a gift from God to be able to have a conversion with them to find out where I came from.

Without my parents and family, I would not be who I have become today.

I have great respect for them and lots of gratitude. My dad taught me to be fiercely independent, that way you can become free. That’s how I built up my career. It was so challenging, especially filming the show from home, because whatever could go wrong, did go wrong.  And by the way, I’m my own harshest critic and I’m the worst boss I ever had.

What would I serve?  Well,I wouldn’t want to cook anything for them. Are you kidding me?  I would want them to cook for me. My father’s fish, my mother’s pasta, my grandmother’s gnocchi… It would be a beautiful feast!                                    Grazie Nick                                                                                                                                                          Antoinette Giacobbe

For more information on Nick Stellino, go to his website,