With a love for barbecues and an inclination towards the open fire, Nick Olinik, our head chef at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, is definitely no stranger to all who join us over the weekends for some fresh-off-the-grill seafood and roast meat. One can usually find Nick constantly hard at work both in and outside of the kitchen, making sure your favourite platter of hearty food is always as juicy and tantalizing as it can get. We caught up with him on one off his off days to learn more about this up and coming chef with his signature cool and laidback disposition.
Tell us more about yourself.
I was born in Ukraine and moved to Singapore with my mother at the age of four as she wanted me to have better opportunities for my future. I became a Singapore citizen when my mom got married. Being in Singapore, I grew up in the East Coast, went to local neighbourhood schools, and spent most of my days at the beach, fishing, biking and rollerblading.
How did you come to be involved in Camp Kilo?
I was looking for a kitchen position in a barbecue restaurant to pursue my love of cooking with fire. When I brought up the idea to Josh (Co-founder of Camp Kilo) back at our old Kilo Lounge, he pitched to me his vision for Camp Kilo and I was more than eager to be on board!
When did your love for cooking first begin and what do you enjoy most about it?
As mentioned earlier, I spent most of my childhood on the beach and at the beach club that my parents frequented and where they had monthly barbecues. Since the age of six, I was already making fires and learning how to barbecue for large groups of people. I also spent a great deal of time watching my mom cook at home, where most of my inspiration comes from—home-cooked comfort food.
Is there any chef that you particularly look up to or draw inspirations from?
Francis Mallmann, the king of cooking with fire and Marco Pierre White, for being the most straightforward, no bullsh*t chef I’ve ever seen.
Take us through the ins and outs of your daily process here at Camp Kilo.
We start by preparing for the weekend on Thursday and that process goes on into Friday afternoon when we’re open for dinner. The coals are lit on Friday morning and basically stay ignited all through the weekend to ensure freshness in our product, such as whole roasted French Poussin and pork belly.
What do you enjoy most as a head chef for Camp Kilo?
Being able to experiment with absolutely everything and playing with open fire. There’s just something about having char on your food—it adds a level of flavour that is completely unique.
Would you consider yourself an explorer of the world?
Very much so. I love to travel and explore different culture and cuisines, as the experiences help me create dishes and inspire me to grow as a chef. Seeing the different ways other chefs use ingredients and techniques originating from their country is just fascinating to me.
Are there any memorable adventure(s) that you’ve been on or are planning for?
I went back to Europe for the first time this year since I left at a very young age. This time, I spent three weeks in Germany visiting my brother from another mother and even went for a music festival! I also got to spend Easter with my family in my hometown in Ukraine and that is an experience that will stay with me forever.
What can we expect from Nick Olinik in time to come?
Some bomb-ass barbecue, a good laugh and the rest will have to be a surprise.