Nick has been working as the executive catering chef with Pangaea for our past two catering seasons and boy have we reaped the benefits. A joy in the kitchen, always ready to pick up the slack or make someone smile, and a creative knack for truly spectacular dishes, Nick talked to us about how he unexpectedly came to the kitchen.
Pangaea: Tell us who you are and where you’re from.
Nicolas Brunina: My name is Nicolas Brunina, born and raised here in Bennington, VT.
P: How did you get your start in the food service industry?
NB: I started my cooking career at Geannelis’, where Allegro is now. I was 14 years old and went there because of a girl I knew to wash dishes. Somehow by chance and a call out, I ended up cooking on the line.
P: Were you interested in cooking growing up? If so, what was one of your favorite dishes to eat or make early on?
NB: I never anticipated becoming a chef, definitely an accident. My mother was a stay at home mom running a daycare, she went back to college at night when I started middle school, so it was just dad and me. He worked in a machine shop and could only microwave pizza, cook bacon and pan fry hot dogs. So I began to dabble a bit. My go to dish that sticks with me is chicken breast smothered in salsa, topped with cheese and baked.
P: How did you make your way to Pangaea?
NB: A long road and many miles. Being from Bennington I wanted nothing to do but leave Bennington, and I did so roughly six times. I moved to Burlington, Phoenix, Napa Valley, back to Burlington and Manchester, always coming back to Bennington in between each new adventure. A little growing up and maturity made me realize how much I love this area.
P: What separates Pangaea from other catering establishments you’ve been with over the years?
NB: The one thing that really separates what we do here is the one-on-one attention that each customer receives and deserves at each event, never dividing our team to do more than one event at a time. Complete follow through from start to finish, providing a service that feels like a night out with friends and receiving table side service rather than a pre-selected standard chicken, beef or fish check mark on a place card.
P: Over the time you’ve been here, what is your favorite Pangaea dish?
NB: I’m a simple guy with a sweet tooth. I would have to say the chocolate cake or the tacos for the house made salsa.
P: What is one of your favorite dishes you have brought to Pangaea?
NB: The vegetable strudel with roasted tomato marinara. It makes a vegetarian option much more interesting.
P: What is one piece of advice you would give to successfully get through a busy event?
NB: Keep calm and grill on, there’s always a finish line.
P: When you go out to eat, what do you order?
NB: I generally look at the seafood/fish option, I almost never have that at home to cook.
P: Appetizer or dessert?
NB: Appetizer. I like to get warmed up for the show. Dessert is so much better to-go later at home.
P: If you knew it was your last meal, what would you eat?
NB: A thick ribeye steak, just salt and pepper, and a lobster tail floating in a bowl of melted butter.
P: Supposedly there are 99 ways to cook an egg. In your opinion, what is the best way to prepare an egg?
NB: In a fry pan with butter, slow and low until the whites are cooked, a quick flip and served on a brioche bun. A warm yolk but not cooked, has to be runny.
P: If you weren’t a chef, where do you think you would be today?
NB: My first option before becoming a chef by accident was sports medicine and physical therapy. However, my gut tells me I’d be either outside mowing lawns or doing something in the field of contracting/carpentry. Definitely something with my hands.
Get a chance to try some of the fantastic dishes Nick has created for Pangaea. He will be cooking in the restaurant from January 4th until January 11th and running some of his catering dishes as specials. A real treat!