The finer things in life include great watches, delicious food and excellent wine. These are three things that celebrity chef Nick Stellino long ago decided to make a permanent part of his life. Whenever he can, he combines all three, whether it’s in a new book, a new video on his website or a new TV show.
Stellino does so much, it seems that he rarely has time to even sit, but the truth is that he always makes time for a good meal.
“I believe that the primary essence of success is constant, forward motion and the continuous fear that if you stand still you will be overtaken,” he says with a smile. “I have always felt as if I was a Roman centurion trapped behind enemy lines, trying to make my way back to Rome.”
As a result, Stellino is always working on his next project, trying to make his next vision a reality.
“It is privilege to be able to dream,” he explains. “The realization of a TV series and its accompanying cookbook–it’s the physical manifestation of a dream realized. It is never about the money, rather it’s about this willingness of our minds to shape an incongruous mass of concepts and ideas into a resplendent, concrete piece of work which connects with other people and brings joy, hope, excitement and laughter to their lives.”
“An idea, a great idea, if it only lives in your head, and you are unable to communicate it, or to make it connect with other people, does not really exist, it is just a puff of air inside your brain,” he continues. “For my ideas to die like this would be a fate worse than death. That is why I must always accomplish what I set my mind to. I make it a standard practice, once I decide to move forward and commit to the execution of my idea, I burn all the bridges behind me, so that retreat will never be an option.”
From an early age, Stellino has been a watch lover, stemming from the special moments he had with his father.
“My father, at the very beginning of my life, was often on the road, as he was trying to establish his own business,” Stellino remembers. “We come from a long line of farmers, who only knew how to work the land, and my father wanted a better life for himself and his children, but it came at a big cost. He could not spend as much time with us as he wanted. I remember him coming into our room to kiss me and my brother Mario goodnight, before he would leave, early the next morning, on another business trip. He would hand me his watch, and tell me, ‘Nick, if you wind this watch, it will never stop, and it will always remind me to come home to you!’
“Even now, at the age of 59, when I wind my watch in the morning before I go out, I think of him, and even though he passed away some 10 years ago, sometimes I can feel his hand over mine,” he concludes wistfully.
As a result, owning and wearing fine watches is important to Stellino. He appreciates the engineering and the artistry of these incredible machines on the wrist.
“I believe that a mechanical watch is almost a miracle of human evolution,” he explains. “An instrument, engineered, designed, produced and assembled by people like you and I, who have been able to capture the passing of time within the whirling of mysterious, mechanical parts moving forward, in unison. Artistically speaking, a fine timepiece elegantly reminds us that time waits for nobody.
“A watch is not just a piece of jewelry, but an instrument of supreme human craftsmanship, which alerts us to the passing of time, while gently reminding us: ‘What are you doing with this ethereal mass of seconds, minutes and hours, slipping through your fingers like grains of sand?’ I always need a watch on my wrist, to remind me about the intensity of my purpose and the brevity of time, in which to accomplish it.”
Stellino particularly enjoys the challenge of accomplishing his goals. Nothing has ever come easy for him, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel alive when I tussle,” he admits. “Even the basic act of forward motion requires a thick skin, an oversized ego and an exaggerated willingness to go at it and fight until the last breath will pass your lips. There is a moment when a group of creative strangers come together, and in the midst of the controversy surrounding a project, there is a creative nucleus that magically seems to connect. In this form of artistic ‘fusion,’ when strangers become brothers at arms, and the idea that seemed so far away and unobtainable comes closer and closer to realization with every effort put forth. It is at this moment, when a team is bonded into a magnificent example of artistic collaboration. It is in this process, where I realize that my ego, my own self-importance, my fame and my fears become nothing, they dissipate away.
“I am working to create something that will justify my presence in this lifetime,” he continues. “This is what I love the most, this is the instant when I come to realize the great privilege of my position. To be part of a team in the attainment of something that is bigger than all of us is an aspiration we should all execute more often. It is, I believe, the essential base of our human progress. No man is an island!”
Change is the Only Constant
The world of entertainment, and particularly culinary programing, is changing quickly. Stellino is committed to doing things differently.
“I am a small niche player, in a world of large media conglomerates,” Stellino acknowledges. “The battlefield is shrinking daily and is ever more crowded with armies of new players pushing and shoving for a prominent position. Cooking shows have become gladiator contests, where people are openly humiliated, denigrated and eliminated for the entertainment of viewers. I want none of this. To me money is made of paper and I want for my work to speak of me for millenniums after I am gone.
“I value freedom and independence far more than anything else,” he adds. “I consider myself a modern-day Spartacus. Whilst on its surface, this assertion might seem as nothing more than the delusional decree after too much wine, keep this in mind: in a world when most people only last five years, at most, I have a 23-year track record as a successful independent producer. For people like me to survive and prosper, we must embrace the promise of a better future now, I must adapt, execute and change, before anyone else. Long live Spartacus!”
Time in Hand
Stellino loves his watch collection, particularly prizing his Franck Muller Master Banker, but he keeps it in perspective.
“I refuse to give value to anything material as if it was irreplaceable,” he insists. “That is a kind of dependency in itself which I do not endorse. For as beautiful and as expensive as a watch might be, in the end it is just a thing, a material possession. If lost, it can be found; if sold it can be bought again. The only thing I cannot do without in life is my wife Nanci.
“She likes watches, but as adornments, or as a fashion accessory, yet without knowing anything about the watches I bought for her, she often surprises me by making accurate comments about the movements, and the decorations on the plates,” he continues. “She is most appreciative of the jewelry appeal, but she understands the intricacy of an exceptional movement. I once asked, ‘How do you know all these things?’ She laughed and responded, ‘Do you ever hear yourself talking?’”
Next on Stellino’s list for his collection is a minute repeater, something he has been thinking about for quite a long time. He has his eye on several, but he needs “to sell some more TV shows.”
The only vintage watch Stellino owns is the watch his father had him wind when he was a kid. “It was the one my father bought to celebrate my birth 59 years ago, and it is the same one I now wear from time to time when I want to feel his presence near me.”
Stellino is aware of the passing of time and is committed to making the most of the time he has on this earth.
“In the last decade, I have been able to manage my life both personally and professionally so that I was somewhat in charge of my destiny,” he says. “All that I do in terms of my work is always and solely my choice. This freedom is something that I value more than cash in the bank. If a tight deadline is involved, that is what it is and that is the challenge I accepted. My honor, my worth, the meaning of my name is tied up into the flawless execution of whatever duty I have accepted. The way I see it, it is not what was forced upon me, it is always what I chose to do. With this in mind, time does not govern me, it is just a scoreboard with fast changing numbers…and that is that!”
The New Show
Stellino is currently in production with part two of his new TV series, 13 more episodes of Nick Stellino: Storyteller in the Kitchen. “In addition, we already have started development on a TV series exclusively designed for the web, 13 episodes each about 2-3 minutes in length,” he details enthusiastically.
“Each of them featuring a passionate interview with some of the most exciting and inspiring personalities in the world of food, photography fashion and design. You will see my watch collection when you watch my show, because I always wear a watch when cooking or filming, I feel naked without one. I wear a different watch every day. I do not match the watches with my food, but I do match my watches, especially the watch bands, to my outfits.”
Stellino is passionate about the enjoyable things in life: his cooking, his family, his timepieces and his work.
“I wanted to be part of something bigger than me, something that would help give joy to the lives of millions of people,” he explains. “The road of my success was paved with my own failures and it was propelled by my own ambitions. I possess an unfadeable sense of inner drive, mixed with purpose. Whatever I do has to mean more than just making money. In my work, I want to create something beautiful, I want to connect with people’s heart and feelings. My ambition is that one day, people will look at my work as the ultimate definition of a certain style of visual storytelling. I want to be known as the Caravaggio of digital storytelling. Anything less than that would mean I had failed in my purpose.”
Editor’s Note: Nick Stellino’s, very kindly, put together a list of his recipes into a PDF for all our readers. Feel free to download the file here.