Nicholas Piotrowski, Executive Chef Ruth’s Chris Columbia SC
Did you always want to be a chef, or did you want to follow a different career path at first?
Honestly, growing up I always wanted to be a garbage man. I was intrigued by the thought of being able to hang off the back of a truck all day. But now I can’t think of anything I’d rather be than a chef!
How did you become interested in being a chef?
I would have to say the three main things that caught my attention about being a chef early on were my obsession with fire, my endless appetite and my attention to detail while working with my hands.
What is your earliest cooking memory?
My earliest cooking memories would have to be family dinner at my grandparents house. A huge table full of family and food, everyone always helping out to make the holiday meal come together.
If you could choose anything in the world to cook, what would it be and why?
Baked spaghetti or Sheppard’s Pie would be my choice mostly because they are the best comfort foods in my opinion.
You recently stepped up into the Executive Chef position at Ruth’s Chris, right? What’s it like taking on more responsibility in the kitchen? What new roles did you have to take on?
Being an Executive chef has so many aspects to it, I don’t think people realize that the cooking is just one part. It involves everything from accounting and bookkeeping, to HR duties, maintenance and repair. Some days I will go from working the broiler to climbing on the roof to change hood vent belts, to dealing with personnel issues, and then right back into balancing invoices. I think that is what I love about it the most though, it is never a dull moment and always keeps you moving.
Signature Filet | Ruth’s Chris
What is the most popular dish at Ruth’s Chris?
Our signature Filet is far and away the most popular item on our menu.
Does the most popular dish change depending on the season, or is there always one tried and true dish that seems to be on everyone’s minds?
The filet is, hands down, most popular, regardless of season. And frankly, I can understand why, it’s a great cut of meat and we cook it to sizzling perfection every time!
What is your favorite dish to prepare at Ruth’s Chris?
I am a huge fan of our Porterhouse; when it’s cooked just right, it’s a beautiful thing! At 40 ounces, it may sound a little intimidating, but in my experience, many guests are up to the challenge.
What is your favorite Ruth’s Chris dish to eat?
Sweet Potato Casserole | Ruth’s Chris
I love our Sweet Potato Casserole, there is nothing else like it out there. It’s a one of a kind dish that cannot be matched.
Since Ruth’s Chris is such a popular restaurant, the food needs to be consistently cooked to perfection. How do you keep your kitchen running smoothly to ensure that every dish comes out perfectly cooked?
I push myself to stay very active throughout the entire operation. I am continuously working with the staff to make sure we reach our goals and produce a perfect product. I set a standard and except nothing less and continue to challenge staff with seasonal specials and food quality.
Do you have a special cooking technique you use that you’d like to share?
There are lots of techniques out there. Don’t be afraid to experiment, you never know what you might come up with. Some of my best creations are made off the top of my head.
What do you consider to be the most essential item in your kitchen?
My staff is my most important kitchen “item.” When we all work together as a team to get the job done, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.
What do you think is the hardest dish to prepare at Ruth’s Chris, and why?
Many of our dishes that incorporate lobster into them and require a lot of attention to detail. Lobster is delicate and easy to overcook. Everything from our whole fresh Maine Lobster to our creamy Lobster Mac & Cheese take a special set of skills to prepare.
How do you think you’ve grown as a chef since working at Ruth’s Chris?
I believe I grow as a chef every day. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how long you have been cooking, you will never know everything. There are so many different cultures, ingredients and techniques in the world that no one person can ever claim to know it all. If I ever reached a point where I thought I had nothing else to learn, I think I would lose interest honestly. I am always hungry to learn.
Do you remember a night when you made a dish at Ruth’s Chris and were especially proud of how it turned out? Tell me about it.
Anytime a guest has a special request I always take the time to go out of my way to prepare it personally for them. Lobster Thermidor comes to mind in particular. Lobster Thermidor is a French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and brandy, stuffed into a lobster shell. It can also be served with an oven-browned cheese crust, typically Gruyère. This is not typically a dish we offer, nor did I have it prepped at the time but I managed to prepare it exactly as requested and hopefully made a memorable experience.
Cooking the perfect steak… add butter!
All of our readers are dying to know how to prepare a tender, perfectly seasoned steak. Do you have any tips?
It is important to start with the best cut of beef you can get, that is where the flavor comes from. After that keep it simple. Good quality sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to season. Nice hot clean grill, and finished off with a touch of butter. Now that’s sizzling perfection.
Do you do a lot of cooking at home as well? What’s your favorite meal to cook at home?
I like to cook simple, fresh dishes at home. I shop for fresh, local ingredients and mostly rely on the flavor of the ingredient itself to highlight the dish. I love fresh seafood and vegetables!
You’re stranded on an island. What 5 ingredients do you wish you had with you? What would you make with those ingredients to sustain yourself while you wait to be rescued?
I would have to say butter for flavor, sweet potatoes, peanuts and rice because they are quick sources of energy, and Sriracha because it is the most delicious sauce ever and can make even the worst thing palatable. I would probably attempt to make some sort or sweet potato casserole, although I don’t know how successful it would turn out considering the scenario and ingredients of choice.
What personal goals have you set for yourself and for your cooking that you hope to achieve in the future?
Cooking with as many different people as I can and absorb as much as I possibly can from them . I love meeting chefs with as much passion, dedication and respect for cooking as I have. Additionally, I love to teach people and helping them grow their love for cooking. I still remember many of the people who have taught me unique skills and techniques throughout my career. I think that’s what being a chef is all about.