Recently, Astor & Black was given the esteemed honor of sitting down with celebrity chef and self-acclaimed “clotheshorse”, Chef Nick Stellino, in his lovely Italian villa set atop the hills of Los Angeles. Chef Stellino enthralled us with stories of growing up in Palermo on the island of Sicily, his life as a renowned chef, the love of his life, wife Nanci Stellino, and his innate passion for style and fine clothing. A super enthusiast of Astor & Black, his beautifully woven comments can be found on our Facebook, blog, and Twitter which led us to wonder, who is Nick Stellino?
A&B: At what point in your life did style become important to you?
NS: (in a devilishly charming Italian accent) I remember seeing my dad being fitted for a blue double-breasted suit by his tailor. I might have been 8-9 years old, but I knew right then and there that I wanted to be fitted for a suit. One of my own design!
A&B: What inspires your personal style? Does your passion for cooking or your Italian upbringing influence your style decisions?
NS: Style is an extension of our own personality. It is an outward showing of our inner feelings and the way we react to the world around us. I am optimistic by nature with streaks of childish irreverence, all of which are incorporated in my style of clothing.
A&B: Has your style changed since your days on Wall Street to now as a chef?
NS: Yes! I am a far more stylish man now. I am happier and my renewed happiness shows in the colors I choose and the way in which I have my suits cut; close to the body, bold, daringly young, and stylish. I have become a pin-up of my own imagination. My clothing styles reflect the joy of my enterprise and the enthusiasm of my purpose.
A&B: Does anyone influence your fashion?
NS: Everyone and everything… just because you look good, does not mean it can’t be improved. I love discovering new color combinations and new sartorial details such as contrast stitching, various lapel widths and designs, degrees of tailored fits, different cuff styles, high rise vs. lower rise pants…the list goes on and on….
A&B: Since you normally cook in a chef coat on your shows, is there an accessory that you especially appreciate to spice up your outfit?
NS: An ascot!
A&B: When you run to the grocery store or the market, is fashion still a priority?
NS: I wear 3-4 different outfits every day, depending how I feel and how playful I am. I love colors. All colors, especially red and orange. I would wear a suit to bed if I could. As a matter of fact, whenever I get delivery on a new bespoke suit, I sleep in it. Just to ensure that it fits like a second skin. A great suit is one that dresses you up while making you feel as if you are wearing nothing at all.
A&B: Which is more important in your fashion decisions, form or function?
NS: Everything has a purpose and a specific design choice associated with it. The question always is, “Can you find the proper balance of compromises between the best look and the most functional style?”. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.
A&B: What is your favorite piece of Astor & Black clothing?
NS: I cannot differentiate amongst my children… I love them all the same!!!
A&B: We have seen you cooking on different morning shows wearing anything from t-shirts to sweaters to suits. What leads you to making your different style choices? Do you have a preference for one of these looks?
NS: Everything has a purpose. It might be as simple as a fit of vanity or as complicated as the crafting of a new image. An outfit accompanies a new story to be told in words and food and images. I am the master of my own theater and the clothes I wear are the plays of my daily life. We wear the image we want to become and it has worked for me. I have willed myself into my present position. We can all look good, but if we do not have the stuff to back it up , we will all fall by the wayside like pins on a bowling alley. An elegant man with no substance, beside the style of his clothes, is nothing more than a puppet. I aim to be my own man, standing on my own two feet, wearing a suit of my own design. I am bespoke to myself!!
A&B: Have you ever had a ‘fashion disaster’? If so, what was it?
NS: I gave a motivational speech once in front of hundreds of people who seemed to laugh at all the wrong lines. It was at the end my time on stage as I was delivering my last remarks, that I noticed the front tail of my white shirt sticking out of my unzipped pants with inexplicable pride. People were laughing aloud and some of them fell out of their seats while convulsing with laughter. Everyone thought it was part of the act. Inside of me, I almost died of embarrassment. I felt like the emperor who was wearing no clothes.
A&B: Your newest TV show, Cooking with Friends, features many celebrity chefs; do any of them have extremely good style?
NS: Style is not a custom-made suit, it is a feeling you have inside which is deployed visually by what you wear and how you wear it. It could even be something as simple as a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I surely admire people who wear them with such elegance and panache. My chef friends are all stylish. Their clothes match their passion. I do not look at them as my sartorial inferiors, rather I see them for the kids they truly are. To me they are elegant and stylish, and they can cook with equal passion and elegance. Never think yourself superior to anyone because you are wearing better shoes or a better suit. If that is how you measure people… life can be a disappointing journey.
A&B: Your wife is the producer for many of your ventures, including your show. How is it working in such close quarters with your significant other?
NS: She knows all of me. And let me tell you, I am not an easy man to live with. There is nothing I own and there is nothing I want that is worth more than my wife.
A&B: There were so many great backdrops in and around your home for this photoshoot. What is your favorite room in your house?
NS: My house is my second wife. I love every nook and cranny of it. I love it because since I was a little boy in Sicily, I dreamt of a home exactly like this, only in America. I grossly overpaid for this home when I bought it and I did everything wrong when I remodeled it (according to the canons of smart real estate investing), but this is not a house, this is my home! Everything you see in it is a physical realization of my most intimate dreams. The fact that my wife and I did this together makes it, for me, the most beautiful place in the world.
A&B: Tell us a bit about the new walk-in closet you have designed in your home. How important is it to be able to view your clothing in an organized manner?
NS: I am too old to drink bad wine. The same applies to my life in every aspect of it, as simple and as mundane as it might appear. I put great emphasis in all I do, even something as plain as tying my shoes. So when it came to design my closet it was, for me, an undertaking filled with joyful trepidation and exciting challenges. I took my time designing every detail and every feature to accommodate all my needs in accordance to my height, my body size and the requirements of my own inner vanity. My new custom closet is a monument to my own passion for details, functionality, and style. I LOVE IT!!!!
My closet is my command center. At a glance I can design quickly and efficiently any outfit I need. With a couple of moves and plenty of hanging and displaying features, I can sit back in my winged-arm chair and calculate every nuance of my sartorial statements. I already have new ideas on how to improve it … can’t wait to build another one!!!!
Images by KDW Photo.
Wardrobe by Aaron Benami | Styled by Jamie Wells.
For more information on Chef Nick Stellino, please visit http://www.nickstellino.com