Thanks to Chef Nick Totten Dallasites can now experience a taste of classic Cajun cuisine right in their backyards. Coming from a long history of fine dining, Chef Totten graduated from Johnson & Wales Culinary University, completed an apprenticeship in New Orleans where he later stayed taking several positions as Sous Chef at Five-Star restaurants around the city. Having the opportunity to work with well known celebrity chefs in both his native South Carolina and Dallas, Chef Totten’s passion for cooking led him to opening Nola Grill in 2013.
With the freshest ingredients and dishes made from scratch, Nola Grill gives an authentic experience of New Orleans’ signature dishes to everyone that walks through the door. To complete the ambiance guests can also catch a jazz band that plays Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights from 6:30pm to 10:30pm.
Haute Living sits down with Chef Nick Totten to find out more about his inspiration for cooking and what plans he has for the future.
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in Dallas? Hilton Head Island, SC
What inspired you to become a chef? My Grandmother was my first inspiration at a very young age as she was a culinary instructor. She taught me the value of fresh ingredients and blending flavors while not over powering the dish.
What do you think has influenced your cuisine the most? My cuisine is influenced by the culture of Coastal Carolina living and the wonderful culture of Louisiana and all the wonderful ingredients they have to offer.
How would you classify your cuisine? I would classify my cuisine as a New Twist on Creole and Southern with a blend of Charleston and New Orleans.
What do you think your biggest challenge has been in your culinary career? The biggest challenge I would have to say was opening my own restaurant. It can be very stressful and the hours are very long. But as with anything in life or business, hard work and staying focused and consistent it will pay off and make you proud of your accomplishments.
How do you think Dallas’ culinary scene is different from other places? Wow, the Dallas scene seems to always be changing for the better in my opinion. I love seeing all the new places popping up with different cuisines and pulling away from the old Texas chain restaurants. Dallas is becoming a great culinary hot spot in my opinion, with so much talent in and around the metroplex.
How would you classify Texas Cuisine? I love the way Texas cuisine is going and it should be classified as nothing less than exceptional.
Do you have any mentors and if so; who are they and what did you take away from them? Yes, probably way to many to name but what stands out to me would be Danny Myer for his amazing business knowledge and the things he overcame. I had the pleasure of working with Dean Fearing and he is an exceptional man and chef. He taught me the layering of flavors and seasoning that will always stay with me.
If you were not a chef what would you be doing? Hmm never really thought about that one but I would guess it would still be in hospitality.
Last day on Earth what city would you be in? New Orleans; it’s always a party and love the culture.
What would be your last meal? Some sort of Dover Sole dish
Sommelier or Mixologist? Sommelier
Favorite cocktail? Sazarac
What’s your signature dish? Our signature dish at Nola Grill would probably be between the Blackened Redfish or BBQ Shrimp and Grits.
What ingredient do you most dislike cooking with? I really love all ingredients but Sea Urchin always gets me for some reason.
Where does your inspiration come from? Traveling and seeing what other chefs are doing and comparing to what I have done. It’s always evolving and I love that!
How do you think the glamorization of chefs have changed the industry as a whole? Well they have definitely brought chefs to another level and helped to shine a light on an occupation people just didn’t understand or have a knowledge of.
Working on any new projects? Future plans? Yes, we are working on another Nola Grill that is in Dallas at The Highland Hotel. We are very excited about this.
Who is on your bucket list to experience your cuisine? That’s a tough one! There are so many from John Besh to Dwaine Johnson to Al Pacino to Steve Harvey and much more. I would just love to talk with them about success and overcoming certain challenges while having a cocktail.
Do you work with any non profits or benefits? We try to work with as many as we can. It’s always nice to give back to the community.
What’s a kitchen gadget/tool that you couldn’t live without? My Knife!
What are your thoughts on food critics? I have nothing against them, I value all opinions.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Fried Chicken
Farm to table or burger joint? Farm to Table
What do you think are some unique ways that chefs can brand themselves better? Putting a face to the restaurant or dish. Get involved with the people that dine with you.
What was your inspiration behind the menu at Nola Grill? New Orleans Louisiana without a doubt.