Maryland native Nicholas Stefanelli set his early sights on becoming a fashion designer intent on studying in Italy after graduating from high school in 1998. Instead, he fell in love with the foods of Italy while traveling extensively, appropriate given his Greek/Italian heritage, growing up with grandparents who raised their own produce and delighted in cooking and sharing experiences around the table.
To pursue his new dream, Stefanelli enrolled in L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD, graduating in 2001 to enter an externship at Galileo restaurant in Washington, D.C. After a few short months, he quickly rose to chef de partie at Galileo, and then went on to become the chef de partie of Laboratorio del Galileo, a exclusive dining room with a completely open kitchen tucked in the back of Galileo, where he crafted twelve-course tasting menus for the restaurant’s guests.
Then in 2003, he accepted the position of chef de partie at Maestro, the AAA Five Diamond, Mobil Four-Star Italian restaurant in McLean, Virginia where he remained until 2007, moving up to the position of sous chef, responsible for assisting with menu research and development, plus the daily kitchen operations. Working under Maestro’s James Beard Award-winning chef Fabio Trabocchi, Stefanelli cultivated a talent for cooking and expanded his knowledge of the nuances of Italian cuisine. Trabocchi taught Stefanelli everything from understanding the regional culinary traditions of Italy to sourcing rare ingredients; knowledge that continues to serve him well today. An able young chef, Trabocchi proclaimed Stefanelli as a rising star in the industry and encouraged him to stage at Thomas Keller’s world renowned French Laundry in California, which he did in 2004.
After four years at Maestro, Stefanelli next followed his famous mentor to New York City in 2007, and he was promoted to chef de cuisine at Trabocchi’s Fiamma restaurant. Fiamma earned a three-star rating from the New York Times during his tenure in the kitchen, and Stefanelli was able to establish his own cooking style in the process, blending the culinary heritage of Italy with his own modern sensibilities, crafting his own unique brand of gourmet artistry.
Stefanelli returned to Washington in early 2008 to cook and eventually lead the kitchen at Mio Restaurant downtown. Then in July 2009, Ashok Bajaj tapped him as the new executive chef to help develop the menu for Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca at 1100 New York Avenue, NW.
Upon opening in September 2009, Bibiana instantly became one of Washington’s most popular hot spots. The restaurant earned a place in Esquire magazine as one of the “Best New Restaurants in The Country in 2010,” and Worth magazine named it as one of the “Best Power Lunch” spots in the USA in May 2011. Stefanelli’s regional Italian fare received a glowing review and three stars (out of four) from Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post in his 2011 Fall Dining Guide and four stars from DC Modern Luxury. Washingtonian magazine also recognized it as one of the “100 Very Best Restaurants” in the city in 2011 and in 2012, earning three stars.
As the executive chef of Bibiana, Nick Stefanelli won the “Rising Star Chef” award from the Metropolitan Restaurant Association in Washington in 2010 and was named “Rising Star” by Starchefs.com the same year. He was also a semifinalist for the 2011 James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of The Year and a Washington finalist in the Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef 2011 and 2012 competition. Stefanelli enjoys competing annually in the prestigious Cochon 555 event in Washington. Furthermore, the American Lamb Board asked Nick to serve as the 2011 and 2012 American “Lambassador” for the city, and the ultra-luxury Yachts of Seabourn invited him to be a featured guest chef for its cruise showcasing Italy’s West Coast in July 2012.