by Alissa Thommes
Most University of Northwestern – St. Paul students know him from the Exhibition station during the lunch hour, but along with his work as a chef, Nolan is also a musician and enjoys spending time with his family.
For Nolan, a typical day involves arriving at work at 6:30 or 7:00 AM to start preparing everything for the day, then working behind the counter in the Billy from 10:30 to 2:30. As any student with a meal plan would know, he is one of the busiest people on campus during this time. “I enjoy it – I would much rather be busy than slow,” he said. “At times I would like to see the business dispersed a little more, and I’d like to try to do what I can in the future to maybe switch stations and try to attract some attention elsewhere, but I do enjoy being busy. It’s good to know that I’m putting out something that people desire and that they come back for and that they’re willing to wait for every day.” This is certainly the case, as the line for Exhibition is consistently the longest on a typical day.
Nolan has been interested in cooking since he was young, with a combination of natural interest and ability and learning from his mother. He recalled, “I’ve always kind of taken naturally to food, as naturally as one can, anyway.” He has been in and out of the food service industry for 14 years and currently working with Bon Appetit, where he enjoys both the work and the scheduling that allows him more time with family. “This is honestly the best job that I’ve had, especially in cooking. It’s a super clean kitchen, and there are great chefs working here,” he said.
One of his favorite parts of the job is the ability to learn and explore a variety of different things. “Our sous chef, Chad, has worked with me a lot; he’s really challenged me in that back corner and I’ve learned a ton,” he explained. Since Exhibition tends to have many Asian dishes, he has learned a lot about Asian cooking and cuisine, which he enjoys and appreciates, but he also likes the variety that can be explored there as well.
However, although he loves cooking, music is also an extremely important part of his life. He has played guitar since his early teenage years and went to school for building and repairing guitars. “I’ve been playing as a solo instrumental guitarist in the Twin Cities since 2010,” he explained. “I’m always trying to figure out how to get more music into my life – eventually maybe cook part time and play more music, that’s definitely the goal. If there’s one love I have in life, it’s the guitar and playing music.” He composes all of his music and has released several albums of his work.
Outside of his major interests, music and cooking, he also is interested in fitness. “Fitness is a huge part of my life,” he said. “I love calisthenics-based workouts. I have a particular interest in hand balancing. I’ve been doing a lot of handstands and working on a one-arm handstand, which takes a ridiculous amount of time – it’s kind of a unique endeavor.” Another activity he enjoys in his free time is spending time outdoors with his family, going to lakes or parks regularly during summer.