By Sophia Ricco
The delights of scrumptious cooking with natural ingredients can be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home with personal chef Nicole Uliano.
Welcomed into homes on the North Shore, Chef Uliano serves up mouthwatering platters with eclectic elements for up to 70 guests or simply prepares dinner for a busy family. With over four years experience as a personal chef, Uliano brings her skills to make a splash at special events like birthday parties, Shabbat dinners, and bridal showers.
Typically, Uliano will take over a client’s kitchen for four to five hours be- fore guests arrive, but this past week found herself in an unusual spot - cooking in her own apartment.
“It’s funny to do this in my home since I usually do everything in other people’s homes,” Uliano said. “I grocery shop for them, arrive and prep-cook, then, depending on the event, I will stay and plate dishes throughout the party.”
Her wide array of offerings allows Uliano to be flexible to clients’ needs. Over time, Uliano has picked up recipes and techniques to craft kosher, gluten- free and vegan dishes. Based on what is desired, Uliano can continuously cook throughout events, stock refrigerators with a week’s worth of meal prep, or teach her methods with in-home cooking classes.
“I’ve done private dinners for couples, where I stay the whole time and prepare three to four courses,” Uliano said. “It’s like having a restaurant in your house.”
Coming from a family of Italian cooks, Uliano attended the Culinary Institute of America and studied further at the Natural Gourmet Institute where she learned about holistic, healthy cooking from former personal chefs.
Uliano prides herself on presenting gorgeous plates that are a feast for the eyes and stomach. She finds the key to presentation is a rich color scheme and interesting shapes.
“It’s simple, I would say, but I love color,” Uliano said. “On the cheese board, there’s an orange-red theme. For the veggies, it’s pinks and purple. As I plate, I can’t say alright I’ll put this here, it’s an organic flow that just kind of happens.”
Uliano’s signature cheese and charcuterie board is a spectacle to take in, overflowing with ripe fruits, meats from sopressata to prosciutto, and cheeses like blue, brie, apricot, cranberry and goat. The decadent platter makes a mouth-watering centerpiece that invites diners in to grab a bite. Fresh apricots and cherries add to the color palette while balancing the savory cheeses and meats.
“I cook seasonal,” Uliano said. “All the veggies, rhubarb and strawberries are in season. I try to go to local farms and source locally whenever possible.”
For the summer Uliano will keep plates light and refreshing. She sources from Young’s Farm in Brookville and various farmers markets, always striving to include the freshest ingredients. This is evident in the crudités with beet hummus. A colorful array of vegetables surrounding deep pink hummus, it elicits a kick with a sprinkle of curry powder.
Uliano crafts every menu with care and thorough collaboration. She will often present a sample menu that is tweaked until the client is satisfied.
“Each menu is personalized to the client,” Uliano said. “If they tell me one of their favorite dishes, I can do a twist on that. I go for unique items and like to think out of the box. If you take a standard recipe, like the niçoise salad, and deconstruct it onto a platter, it’s different.”
The niçoise platter highlights seared tuna, olives, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes and string beans. The tuna is expertly cooked with a tender raw middle. Her sense for contrasting flavors blended together work in harmony, such as the watermelon, heirloom tomato and feta salad, that incorporates elements of sweet, acidic, and salty.
“I like the fresh, natural approach to food,” Uliano said. “I think you should know what you’re eating. It doesn’t have to be organic, but I don’t cook with preservatives or anything artificial. Everything is made from scratch, whether it’s pie dough or whip cream.”
As for desserts, Uliano’s love for rustic elements brings to mind her decadent rhubarb strawberry crostata with whipped cream bringing the bright red fruits together with a hearty crust and smooth cream.
In the busy world we live in, everyone could benefit from a visit from Chef Nikki who brings her talents in the kitchen to your own table.
North Shore of Long Island
Cuisine: Natural and fresh
Price: Dependent on size of party