Chef Nicole Votano grew up in London, Rome, and the south of France, and attended high school in San Francisco and Hawaii. Her lifetime of travels and global experiences have always found their way into her eclectic cooking style, which specializes in farm fresh French, Italian, and Asian flavors. Upon graduating from the French Culinary Institute in NYC, Chef Nicole moved back to San Francisco to work in the kitchens of Kimpton Group’s French brasserie Grand Café and Bradley Ogden’s restaurant One Market.

In 2005, Votano moved to the East Coast where she established herself at some of the top hotels and restaurants in Miami, beginning with a position at The Four Seasons Hotel and the Biltmore Hotel’s Fontana Restaurant. She then became Executive Chef at Michelle Bernstein’s Design District café Crumb on Parchment and Michelle Bernstein Catering. Shortly thereafter, Chef Nicole opened the downtown eatery Fooq's, where she received many accolades, including being named one of Modern Luxury's "5 Chefs to Follow".  

Chef Nicole is a true believer that the quality of ingredients and consistency of the food are what keep guests coming back for more. In her current position as Chef de Cuisine at Miami Beach's new farm-to-counter restaurant DIRT (just a few blocks away from the Grand Tasting Village), she is able to shine a light on her life-long passion for local sourcing and community outreach in a fast casual format. She has a daily dialogue with all of the farmers and purveyors that the restaurant uses. In her free time, Nicole loves to visit new places through culinary exploration with her husband, daughter, and son. Nicole is extremely excited about this new chapter in her career: "It has always been a dream of mine to have an opportunity to serve people food that would not only satisfy them, but let them feel good about themselves at the same time. At DIRT, we are doing exactly that."

Learn More About Nicole Votano

What is your earliest memory involving food or wine?
My first memory of food is cooking carbonara with my dad. He was always a stickler for quality ingredients, so we would go to the market together first thing in the morning. The smell of cured pork and Parmigiano would fill the kitchen, the thought of it still makes my mouth water. My dad would let me have a sip of his wine while we were cooking, I felt so special to be Daddy's little helper.

If you could cook with anyone in the world, who would it be?
I would love to cook with Gabriel Rucker. I love his food so much. The meal I ate at Little Bird in Portland was on of the best I've ever had!

I never leave home without my:
I always carry a fine micro plane and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. You never know when you might need to grate some cheese, and olive oil makes everything better!