Wildwood Grilling Staff Feature

The summer months are the perfect time to throw a laidback party for no real reason. We went on the hunt for a good garden party and discovered that we had a culinary gardener right amongst our staff! Nicole became our next staff feature and ‘From Dirt to Plank’ was born.

Nicole, tell us a little about who you are.

I was born in Colorado, but mostly grew up in Spokane, Washington. After high school, I got a degree in Food Nutrition at the University of Idaho before I went on to pursue a culinary degree from the New York Culinary Institute of America – which I think is funny because it’s the CIA. While I was in school there, I was actually chosen as one of the ten best student chefs and got to work with Julia Child at the Food & Wine Festival in Aspen.

Wow! That must have been a pretty cool experience. Were you always interested in food?

Well, my mom was an awesome cook and so I grew up being exposed to all sorts of different foods because she was always trying different things out. Then I started playing around in the kitchen too. Also, I love baking. Love it. When I have the time. 

So you’re a baker at heart with a culinary degree. How did you end up at Wildwood Grilling?

It just kind of happened! When I initially applied, I though it was an outdoor cooking thing. I had spent most of my time after getting my culinary degree working for nice restaurants and bakeries throughout the Pacific Northwest – The Dahlia Lounge, a Tom Douglas restaurant, in Seattle was a fun one. I also spent some time doing wedding cakes and bread at a bakery in Sun Valley. When I started my family, we moved up to north Idaho and got hired on the spot for sales. And thats kind of the beginning of the end for that!

And now you’ve been with Wildwood going on 5 years – what do you love about working here?

I love that I still get to kind of dabble in the food world without having to work in a restaurant. I love the people we work with, I think we have a great team here. This job is flexible enough that I get to enjoy being outside and I also really like a lot of our customers. I think they’re fun.

With all your food industry experience, what are some of your best tips for entertaining or hosting parties?

I think a lot of things can be done ahead of time and I think its okay to serve room temp food so you can enjoy your party. Put people to work! They love to slice and dice and be part of the party. Keep it simple, you don’t need a ton of ingredients. Especially in the summer, simpler is better – just let your summer produce be what it is.

Great advice! And finally – when you aren’t at work slinging grilling planks, how do you like to spend your time?

In the summer it’s pretty much sailing, hiking, and paddle boarding. In the winter I love to ski – cross-country, downhill, skate skiing – all of them. Also ice skating is fun. And baking my signature banana walnut scones!

Yum! You’ll have to bring those into the office. Thanks for your time Nicole!
Check out the recipes from Nicole’s garden-inspired summer menu below.