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Cajun Cook: 7 Questions with Nola Grill Executive Chef/Owner Nick Totten

Community Conversation with Dawn Tongish: Meet Nick Totten, executive chef and Owner of Nola Grill in Frisco where diners can expect an upscale, yet casual experience reminescent of the French Quarter. Totten and his staff offer made from scratch New Orleans-style Cajun and Creole food with a bar-lounge that includes an extensive wine and cocktail list.
 
Since he was a teen, Totten has dreamed of being a chef and owning his own restaurant. He graduated from Johnson and Wales Culinary University in Charleston, South Carolina and went on to do apprentice work in New Orleans, where he became very fond of the cooking style. He has held numerous, prestigous executive chef positions before opening his own restaurant, along with his partner -- his wife, Christine. We wanted to know more about what this chef thinks about current trends and what diners can expect when they visit the Nola Grill. Totten was kind enough to answer a few questions: 
 
Dawn Tongish: Can you begin by telling us about Nola Grill and what patrons can expect in a dining experience?      
 
Nick Totten: Nola Grill is an upscale Creole Restaurant with a true French Quarter setting From the Lanterns to the brick and the famous art work on the walls and the background music. The food is inspired by the great New Orleans traditions Like Gumbo made with a true dark roux to shrimp creole. we specialize in serving Fresh seafood, Steaks and Chops all of our Product is Prime quality or better. Our guest can expect true southern hospitality when they walk thru the door. We pride ourselves on providing a true dinning experience with southern charm. All of our food is made from scratch on site with true culinary passion and our guest expect the best and deserve it.
 
DT: What do you think DFW customers are looking for when dining out?    
 
NT: I think all customers when dinning out are looking for the WOW factor from service to presentation of the food. The blending of flavors and the unique twist that is put into every dish at Nola. 
 
DT: Where does your passion for cooking come from? 
 
NT: My passion for cooking comes from my younger days spending time with my grand mother who was a culinary pioneer in New England. I recall making fresh jams and preserves from the garden and watching her prepare the freshest seafood you could get. By the time I was 15 I wanted to become a Chef. I loved the creativity of it. So after the years of working in kitchens I attended Johnson & Wales in Charleston SC. I truly loved the knowledge I had gained. After completing that I turned to New Orleans where I loved the style of cooking. After doing a apprenticeship at Emeril's I moved through more kitchens of New Orleans and then returned to Hilton Head. In SC is where I took on a new challenge of Chef De Cuisine at CQs in Harbor town. After just one short year I took over as Executive Chef and transformed CQs into Hilton Head Landmark for cuisine. After years of working there I landed at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and gained even more knowledge for my passion, but in the back of my mind there was always New Orleans. So I created Nola Grill and here we are.
 
DT: Do you believe diners are concerned about budget when they think about eating out?  
 
NT: I believe all customers are concerned about budget, but that's were we as chefs and restaurant owners have to provide the WOW factor. Every guest is treated like they are in my home (They kind of are cause I live here lol) They need to be treated with respect and taken care of so the perceived value is there. 
 
DT: It seems the number of health-consious choices are growing on most menus. Do you think we will continue to see that trend? 
 
NT: The health craze will always continue to grow and be there. Now if you see a menu and there is nothing on it for your diet please ask the server to talk with the chef and see what can be created. I do this all the time and all Chefs should be happy to do the same in my opinion. Its all about the customer.
 
DT: What is your most memorable experience as a chef?  
 
NT: My most memorable experience as a Chef is opening my own restaurant. That's what all Chefs want.
 
DT: Are you totally addicted to the Food Network and the cooking shows? What is your favorite?  
 
NT: Am I addicted to the cooking shows? lol Yes! I love them! Its funny because I cook all day and come home and my wife and partner, Christine will say really cooking shows again? Honestly, I don't have a favorite, but I do like "A Place At The Table" on PBS, because it has the Pioneers of the biz on it.

If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at dtongish@yahoo.com or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015