In the kitchen with Joel Molloy: About food, Nicola's chef says 'do it better or leave it alone'

CINCINNATI - We invite you to dig into our column spotlighting different chefs from the Greater Cincinnati area. Each Sunday, WCPO Contributor Grace Yek takes you into their kitchens and talks to them about their food. The chefs reveal their inspirations, philosophies, and provide a glimpse of their authentic selves.

When nine-year-old Joel Molloy stepped into the kitchen as his mother's assistant, he had the makings of a boy who would one day be chef. At 14, Molloy was already anchoring the entremet station at Nicola's Restaurant, kicking out side dishes for the main entrées. He got his start there as a prep cook, which is to say, he has peeled his share of carrots and potatoes.

Molloy's youthful appearance and laid back manner conceal the culinary maturity within. As the executive chef at Nicola's, his brand of cooking has consistently earned the restaurant near perfect rankings on many popular review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Born and raised in Oakley, Molloy remembers how he always liked helping his mother in the kitchen.

"My mom's family had a huge farm in Williamsburg, and we would take trips out there," he recalled. Cooking almost always meant a mass production.

"They had a big farmhouse, and they would cook dinner for just about the entire neighborhood," Molloy said. "The people from church and the neighbors would all come over."

Food that graced the dinner table came fresh from the family farm.

After high school, Molloy explored a different path, and studied art and design for a while at the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAPP).  He even interned with Lightborne, a design house in downtown Cincinnati.

WCPO Insiders can read about how Molloy left the Tri-State to hone his craft, and what brought him home to Nicola's. Plus, learn what he considers his kitchen essentials and get his favorite recipe to cook at home.


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