Chef Steven Nalls began his culinary career at the age of 15 washing dishing and busing tables. Soon after leaving for college to study engineering he realized his real passion was in the kitchen. He later graduated with honors from the California School of Culinary Arts Pasadena (Le Cordon Bleu). The Colorado native has worked in a variety of establishments throughout the US from Texas to Hawaii. Since then Chef Nalls has won the ACF-certified NACUFS Central Region competition and placed 2nd in the national competition. Today, Steven Nalls is a Chef Educator at Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, CO.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
I started working in the industry when I was around 15 years old. I quickly fell in love with the fast pace work ethic that was different every day. Watching the line cooks always fascinated me. It was until I went to college for engineering that I quickly realized I wasn’t interested in the thermodynamics of an I-beam, but missed the fire and the pan.
Was there a particular instructor from your culinary education who stands out in your memory?
Chef Gerald Warnell, he was my first mentor right out of culinary school. I didn’t know it at the time, but he inspired me to think about food with a “Farm-to-Table” mentality before “Farm-to-Table” was a buzz word.
What do you love most about being an educator with August Escoffier?
I love to see the spark of interest when a student gets inspired. I also appreciate the fact that the students teach and inspire my own personal search for knowledge.
What is the best piece of advice you give your students?
Do not just cruise through your education doing just enough to get by. In the search for perfection you will find excellence – never settle for mediocrity.
You’ve worked in variety of establishments throughout the US in Texas, California, Hawaii and Colorado. How has your style of cooking evolved throughout your career?
I spent most of my career watching and learning from others without really knowing what my “style” of cooking was. Over the years of cooking and gardening at home my passion has evolved into a seasonal and local product focus. Learning how to cook with these products at all stages of their growing cycle, is part of that passion.
What is the course topic you teach at Auguste Escoffier that you most enjoy?
I enjoy teaching the entire program. However, I mostly teach the Farm-to-Table portion of the program which has strengthened my passion for the subject.
In addition to teaching you keep a personal garden and experiment with fermentation and home brewing. What are some of your most recent fermentations, brews and or plantings you’re the most excited about?
This past summer I lacto-fermented some plums from my plum tree, something similar to the Japanese Umeboshi. I love the delicious “funk” that fermentation brings to the table. I am also expanding to raising animals. I am looking forward to raising herds of tasty heritage breed animals. This year I am purchasing my first Scottish Highland cattle, Icelandic sheep, and Mulefoot and Mangalitsa hogs. I am very excited about supplying my family with not only our own produce, but also our own protein.
Lastly, what was the last dish you cooked at home?
The last dish I cooked at home was pasta carbonara with my special house cured pancetta. I am filled with joy when my 5-year-old daughter licks the plate after a meal and says, “Daddy you’re the best cooker ever!”