Before opening his acclaimed NICO restaurant in Mount Pleasant in 2017, Chef Nico Romo was the culinary executive director of Patrick Properties, overseeing food service at the former Fish Restaurant and four other historic properties in Charleston.
He is one of a select group of chefs to receive the title of master chef of France. He became the youngest chef ever, at age 30, when he was named a French master chef in 2010. He's the only one in South Carolina and one of 66 in the United States.
Romo grew up in Lyons, France, and graduated at 19 from the Helene Boucher Culinary Art School. He worked for a French master chef in Vienne, France, before moving to the U.S. and working at Chez Philippe in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., and the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta.
Q: You completed culinary school at age 19. What or who inspired you to become a chef?
A: My brother, who began culinary school a year before me; Mr. Didier Pointreau, who had a restaurant in Lyon called the Rochefort, was my first true cooking mentor; and of course, Paul Bocuse, who is just a genius in skill and philosophy.
Q: What was your first job in food? What did you learn?
A: Training in Europe starts with the very basics: peeling potatoes, taking seeds out of a raisin, etc. These first, then on to cooking!
Q: What is the last thing you cooked for yourself at home?
A: On Sundays, I have been cooking my wife healthy vegetables and different meats; she is an accountant, and tax season is very stressful, so I have been trying to serve good food instead of last-minute meals. Our last meal was quinoa, lentils, sugar snap peas, haricot vert, roasted chicken and beets.
Q: What's the one ingredient you'd always splurge on?
A: Pasta and chocolate for sure!
Q: Is there a food you simply refuse to eat?
A: Anything that has been in a hot box or steam table (like airplane food); also fast food drive-through, I just can't do it anymore; my stomach cannot handle it.
Q: If you could cook with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
A: Paul Bocuse.
Q: If you were not a chef, what would you be doing?
A: Kitchen designer/architect. Right now we are expanding our catering kitchen, and I love overseeing the new concept.