He has appeared on the “Today” show, was nominated for Food & Wine magazine’s People’s Best New Chef Award, won first place in the first Iron Horse Chef Battle at Durango’s Palace Hotel and traveled all the way to Singapore to open a New Orleans-style restaurant called The Big Easy. Now the executive chef at Viceroy Snowmass, one could say Will Nolan sticks to his crazy Cajun roots as he consistently brings lagniappe or a little “something extra” to the table wherever he goes.
Offering up his Southern hospitality for a third time at this year’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Nolan plans to soulfully win over the hearts of food connoisseurs with carefully prepared tastes of his indigenous Louisiana roots — ones diversified and highlighted by his experience and world travels — from the down-home kitchens at Eight K and the Nest to the palates of hundreds who pass by.
Perhaps redefining the techniques of Cajun cooking, Nolan took a break from the kitchen to talk about his cooking style and plans for the weekend, all the while offering a peek at a secret endeavor those of us in Aspen and Snowmass can start drooling over this summer.
Snowmass Sun: Where did your background in cooking get its start, and what brought you to the Viceroy here in Snowmass?
Will Nolan: It started in high school when I worked at a New Orleans barbecue restaurant. From there, I attended the Le Cordon Bleu College of the Culinary Arts in Portland, Ore., and then returned to New Orleans to work as executive chef at Paillard’s in the Wyndham Bourbon. After traveling to Singapore and opening a restaurant there, I was looking to get back to the States and had a friend who turned me on to Aspen. Once I got word that the Viceroy was making an opening in Snowmass in 2010, I applied for the chef de cuisine position and have been here ever since.
SS: How would you describe your cooking style, and how have your travels in Singapore helped influence your menus at Eight K and the Nest?
WN: Being from New Orleans, I would say I have a major French Creole background, which heavily influences the flavors I use and the dishes I create. While in Singapore, I fell in love with the hawker markets, where all the vendors come out and sell in a street-food fashion. The menu and inspiration behind the Nest, with the help of sous chef David Wang, mimics the Asian street food found in Singapore in many ways.
SS: What dishes will you be offering at Food & Wine this year?
WN: From Eight K, we will be offering an alligator sausage in the form of a meatball combined with pork and topped with a sauce picante with seasonings and the holy trinity of root vegetables, as we like to call it. From the Nest, we will be serving a Dungeness crab salad that is light and nice for the summer tastes.
SS: What would you say are your three favorite ingredients, and what, in your opinion, is the key to being a great chef?
WN: Crawfish, pork and garlic. I think in order to be great, you just have to cook for flavor. I am not one to follow the trends. I like to continually educate myself with new knowledge, and in doing so I always cook what I love.
SS: You mentioned something about growing your horizons and illustrating your skill in other outlets. Can you expand upon what locals and guests in the area can expect to see happen next?
WN: We are currently in the process of planning a third restaurant with the Viceroy group, as we have secured a location in Snowmass and will be working toward it this summer. This restaurant will be named Screen Door, and will be an extension of my Creole roots in a Cajun, family-style atmosphere. We look forward to providing more details in the near future.