Before his trip to Hollywood to be a contestant on Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” Nicholas Peters received his culinary training and bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from Southern New Hampshire University. After seven years of restaurant experience at fine dining establishments such as Harvest in Harvard Square, Bergamot in Somerville, and Melissa’s Main Street Bistro in Stoneham, he decided to branch out into a more personal and intimate form of cooking, and has recently taken his talents to Prakash Ellenhorn, a facility for people who suffer from mental illness, where is a chef. Peters has a passion for cooking, being creative, and making people happy through his food.
Q: Nick, how did you get interested in cooking?
A: I got interested in cooking through my mother. The kitchen has always been the center of every family gathering, and I was always right there next to her helping out.
Q: How did you get a spot on Hell’s Kitchen?
A: I was contacted by a local casting agency. They asked me to come to an open casting in Boston. I was hesitant at first because that is not something I normally would do. However, I took the plunge, went through several interviews and auditions and now here I am, on Hell’s Kitchen! It is truly surreal.
Q: What has the experience been like?
A: While I cannot divulge how far I made it in the competition, I can reveal that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Working with someone of Chef Ramsey’s caliber was mind-blowing. The show definitely had its ups and downs and its fair share of drama. Talk about stress!
Q: Is chef Gordon Ramsay as tough as he acts?
A: Chef Ramsey is very tough. People may consider him mean, but I knew it was mainly constructive criticism. He is a great guy, and I could tell just how passionate he is about cooking and teaching.
Q: What was the most difficult part of the competition?
A: The most difficult part of the competition was definitely living and meshing with 17 other personalities. The contestants are from all walks of life. Everybody wants to win and there is inevitably people bumping heads. Because of this tension, dinner service ended up being more stressful.
Q: What did you learn from the experience?
A: I have learned to be more independent and confident in myself and my cooking. It takes a tough skin to be on “Hell’s Kitchen.” Every aspect of the experience was trying and testing us physically and mentally as individuals. But it was so worth it!
Spring Fruit Crostata
Ever crave a pie but really don’t want to go through the trouble of trying to create that perfect piecrust with an uncooperative pie pan? A crostata is basically a free-form rustic pie. These can be made individual-or family-sized. I used fresh apricots and cherries for my simple filling.
1 c. all purpose flour 2/3 c. cornmeal flour? 1/4 c. white sugar? Pinch of salt?6 tbsp. cold butter, cubed? 1/2 c. cold buttermilk (or ice water if buttermilk isn’t readily available)? Extra flour for rolling out
4 fresh apricots, sliced? 1 c. cherries, pitted? 1/2 c. white sugar? 2 tbsp. butter? 1 tsp. vanilla extract? 1 lemon, zested
1.) In a food processor pulse cornmeal, flour, sugar, and salt. Add in the cold butter all at once and pulse until the butter is around pea sized. (This helps the butter spread evenly throughout the dough and helps promotes flakiness.) Slowly stream in the buttermilk just until the dough starts to form. Turn the dough onto a cutting board and knead to combine. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
2.) In a medium sauté pan on medium heat, sauté the apricots and cherries in the butter until they just start to soften. Don’t turn these to mush! Once the fruit has softened just slightly, add in the remaining ingredients. Continue cooking until the sugar has melted and coats the fruit. Let cool.
3.) Separate the pie dough into fourths or even eights depending on how big you want your crostata to be. Using the extra flour, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch and place on a parchment lined sheet tray.
4.) Take about 2 tbsp. of filling and put into the center of the dough. Fold up the edges of the dough creating an even crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
I plated mine a bit fancier with lemon curd, caramel and a sour cream sauce. These crostatas are perfectly good alone or with some fresh home m