It’s not everyday that someone from a casting company reaches out to you on social media looking for chefs to compete in a new cooking show. So, when a message just like this first slid into …
It’s not everyday that someone from a casting company reaches out to you on social media looking for chefs to compete in a new cooking show. So, when a message just like this first slid into Brian Nadeau’s Instagram DMs, he was a bit skeptical.
Nadeau is the executive chef and owner of Cranston’s Cucina Rustica, an Italian restaurant that has been in business on Atwood Avenue for the past six years. He made his television debut on Jan. 6 in the new Netflix series “Pressure Cooker.” In the show, 11 chefs live together and compete for $100,000. There are no celebrity judges and – what makes the show cut throat – is that the contestants eliminate one another.
When Nadeau told his wife, Gina, about the casting company reaching out to him, she suggested he entertain the idea and see where it went.
“So the DMs turn into phone calls, the phone calls turn into emails, the emails turn into interviews,” said Nadeau. “Apparently I just kept nailing every interview.”
Nadeau was selected as one of the 11 chefs and flew to Los Angeles in March of 2021 for roughly four to five weeks of filming. Nadeau said his reason for going on the show was to step out of his comfort zone and elevate his game as a chef – though, of course, $100,000 would be nice.
“I went out there and left a completely different person,” Nadeau said.
Nadeau made a lot of best friends from the experience and still talks to the other chefs every day. He’ll be going to a few of their weddings and said he enjoyed hearing the other contestants' stories during group meals.
Originally from Pawtucket, Nadeau has been cooking his whole life. He’s worked every rank of the restaurant from dishwasher to executive chef – a title he took on around 2004.
“I never grew up wanting to be a chef,” said Nadeau.
In junior high he took on a dishwasher role and ended up cooking in high school. His thought was, in order to make more money, you need more responsibility. He learned what the next person above him was doing and moved up the ranks within the industry. Nadeau attended the University of Rhode Island for business and was part of the Talent Development program which assisted students who didn’t have the money to go to school. After two and a half years, the program’s funding was cut and Nadeau dropped out.
From there, Nadeau went back to what he knew: cooking.
Nadeau said Gina had the idea for opening Cucina Rustica. Back in the day, she and her partner ran a place in Narragansett and needed an executive chef. Nadeau was good friends with her at the time and circumstances eventually allowed him to work with her. One day, Pat Orlando, who owned La Rosa in Cranston, was visiting the restaurant and Nadeau – who knew him – jokingly said to let them know if he ever wanted to sell his Cranston site.
“Two weeks later he came back and we started talking about buying the place,” Nadeau said.
Cucina Rustica is a 7,000 square foot facility that provides dinner service and food for weddings, baby showers, corporate meetings, funerals and more. Gina works the front of the house while Nadeau controls the back of the house; the two also live in Cranston with their 16-month-old toddler.
Nadeau has fresh seafood from Narragansett Bay delivered every day and gets bread daily from Superior Bakery. The business’s popular dishes include the sole française, chicken and veal parmesan, salmon and risotto; he said the restaurant is comfort food forward.
“I try to take care of everybody like family”
The restaurant also offers customers a relaxing vibe.
“The whole idea was to open up a restaurant so that when you came in you didn’t feel rushed to leave,” Nadeau said, adding that he’s trained the staff to read tables. Some people may order immediately but there are others who are catching up with friends and may not order for 45 minutes.
From his time on the show, Nadeau learned different cooking techniques – some of which he has implemented at Cucina Rustica. For instance, a hollandaise sauce is usually made from scratch by whisking it, but Nadeau learned to make the sauce in a blender in 30 seconds; the result is an airier and fluffier sauce.
Pressure Cooker has been trending on Netflix’s Top 10 all week and received positive feedback. Since the show dropped, Nadeau has received messages from people across the country and beyond saying he’s an inspiration to them and that they rooted for him on the show.
The restaurant recently held a premiere party on Jan. 6 in conjunction with Cucina Rustica’s employee/customer appreciation party.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big but I have such a great customer clientele that it kind of spiraled into 130 people,” Nadeau said.
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