CHEF Q&A: Nicholas Pratt, Ocean Prime

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Nicholas Pratt is the executive chef at Ocean Prime Orlando, an award-winning modern American restaurant and lounge from renowned restaurateur Cameron Mitchell. Pratt joined Ocean Prime Orlando as a line cook in 2012 and quickly climbed the ranks from sauté station to broil cook and then sous chef. In July 2018, Ocean Prime promoted Pratt to the position of executive chef.

What’s your favorite local restaurant other than your own? My family moved to Orlando when I was very young, and it has been very fascinating watching the city grow and change, especially the food scene. Over the years, we have seen a surge of new cuisines and dining experiences added to Central Florida’s dynamic selection of restaurants, and as a chef, I can really appreciate the great things chefs are doing here. One of my favorite local restaurants is 1921 by Norman Van Aken in Mount Dora. The James Beard Award-winning Chef’s restaurant serves modern cuisine that blends the numerous ingredients and culinary traditions of Florida. 1921 consistently keeps its menu fresh, offering new entrees using locally sourced produce, meat and seafood.

What’s your go-to meal at home? Although my schedule keeps me busy, I try to make time to prepare a home-cooked meal as often as a can. At home, I usually am in the mood for a traditional home-cooked spread, influenced by my family’s Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage. Although it’s a simple meal, one of my favorite dishes to cook is roasted pork with black beans and rice.

Where do you shop locally for interesting ingredients? With such a great selection of locally owned farms here in Central Florida, I tend to gravitate to those farms when I need fresh produce. Another one of my go-to places for good-quality fruits and vegetables is Whole Foods Market. Although the supermarket is a national chain, Whole Foods Market is committed to providing foods that are fresh and wholesome, as well as offer a wide selection of organically grown produce.

Which kitchen gadget could you not live without? Since joining the culinary industry, I have always made sure to have a Japan-made MAC knife in the kitchen. The beauty of this knife is its versatility. The knives are made with a razor-sharp edge and great balance, which makes it the perfect gadget to have in the kitchen. This one tool can easily go from butchering meat to filleting fish to cutting produce – a gadget I certainly couldn’t live without.

What was your favorite bagged lunch as a kid? My mom always made my lunch for me when I was in grade school. It was a simple lunch, but I was always glad to see my bagged meal waiting for me on the counter before heading off to school, hoping it was a sandwich with a slice of fresh deli meat and a pudding cup.

What’s your most guilty junk-food? I am sure many would say candy, but oddly enough, cereal is my guilty food pleasure. If I get a hold of a box of Reese’s Puffs, I can guarantee that it won’t last on the shelf for long!

What 3 things are in your fridge at all times? My fridge is always stocked with milk, butter and eggs. These simple grocery items are the bases for several dishes and baked goods – making them the perfect ingredients to have in your fridge for when you feel like whipping something up.

Is there anything else about yourself you’d like to share? My passion for cooking was strongly influenced by my robust heritage, pulling from my family’s culinary traditions of using spices and full-bodied flavors, as well as their dedication to crafting comfort foods that warm people’s hearts. Since I was young, I have always remembered my grandfather in Puerto Rico waking up early in the morning to cook traditional cuisine to sell in his neighborhood, and to this day, he continues to work hard and provide quality comfort food for his customers. My career is certainly a direct reflection of my family’s passion for cooking and their hard work and diligence for the craft. When I began my career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher, I knew instantly that working in the kitchen was where I belonged, and I set my eyes on becoming a chef. Within my six years at Ocean Prime, I am proud that my hard work and dedication to the craft has propelled me to executive chef.

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