Meet Your Chef: Nick Haley of Zino Ristorante gleans culinary inspiration from worldwide travels
Whether ordering to-go or dining in, local chefs are working hard to keep people fed safely this winter
Editor’s note: To answer the Vail Daily’s Meet Your Chef questionnaire, email Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart (email@example.com) or Arts & Entertainment Editor Casey Russell (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Spearheading Zino Ristorante’s casual yet contemporary vibe, chef Nick Haley loves the attributes that make Vail Valley dining unique. An avid skier, hiker and fisherman, he likes the bustling, small-town vibe of peak season, as well as the balance in the offseason, where he enjoys refreshing menus and hiking with his dogs.
Located in the Edwards Riverwalk, Zino has become a staple for its updated takes on true-to-form classics. Haley went to culinary school in Italy, after all.
1. How long have you lived in the valley and what brought you here?
I moved here in 2003. I used to come up to Vail from Denver for ski camp when I was younger. After finishing school in Italy and France, I was offered a sous chef position in Vail. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to also get some skiing in.
2. Where did your passion for cooking come from?
Growing up, I was always cooking with my mother and my grandparents. My mother and I still compete in the kitchen.
3. What do you enjoy about being a chef in the Vail Valley?
Being a chef in the Vail Valley allows me to do the outdoor activities that I love. I can ski, hike or fish in the morning, and then be cooking for someone I just met on the mountain, trail or stream at night.
4. What’s one thing you are proud of that people might not know?
I won Best Home Economics student in seventh grade, but it was for sewing.
5. Skier or snowboarder (or neither)? How often do you get out and where do you go. Also, what are your favorite summer activities?
Skier. I used to get in about 80-plus days a winter, now it’s about half that. I love skiing all of Vail. I have dogs, so I spend a lot of time hiking in the summers. I also travel out of the country a ton.
6. What do you like to eat?
I love to eat the street food of every country I visit. I always find some of the best food that way. But, here in the valley, Osaki’s sushi is my favorite.
7. How does Vail Valley dining compare to other places you’ve worked?
It’s different because it’s seasonal. But, once you get used to it, it’s perfect. It gives you time in between seasons to reset and refresh your menus.
8. Who has helped you along the way/what inspires you?
Right after high school I went to culinary school in Italy, I was the youngest in the class by at least 10 years. The older chefs really took me under their wings and helped me get through those first few months, which eventually led to my cooking career. My travels around the world really inspires me to continue to expand my creativity.
9. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
I’m not really sure, because cooking is really all I’ve ever done. It would definitely have to be a job where I would be working with my hands.
10. What can diners expect from a meal at your restaurant?
Contemporary Italian comfort food in a casual atmosphere, where we want you to feel like family.
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