Brent Nielsen, Spur Catering's sous chef, cracks a jovial smile and gestures with his sturdy hands, beaming with pride as he talks salmon tartare cornets, a kitchen on wheels, and raising four daughters to love food.
A native of Washington state, Nielsen grew up around food and worked for his stepfather’s smoked salmon company as a teenager. In 1999, he moved to Wyoming to work at Jackson Lake Lodge and experience the beauty of the Tetons, but ended up falling in love with cooking and fellow chef Jamie, who is now his wife.
“For the first couple months, I was just the veggie cutter and potato peeler for the Mural Room,” Nielsen says. “That first summer, I met chef Kevin Humphreys, our banquet chef that year, who had just graduated from a culinary apprenticeship program down in Georgia.”
By the end of the summer, Nielsen was running the grill under Humphreys, who has been a mentor and friend for the past 19 years.
In 2002, Nielsen was accepted into a three-year culinary apprenticeship program in Sea Island, Georgia, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts. He then worked with Humphreys at Snake River Lodge, and eventually they both began working at Spur Restaurant, where Humphreys is now executive chef.
Menu items at Spur echo Nielsen and Humphreys’ culinary ties to the Deep South with delightfully decadent items such as fried green tomatoes and crispy pork belly steam buns.
As sous chef, Nielsen frequently travels to off-site venues in the Spur Catering truck, which is a fully equipped kitchen on wheels. Working off-site provides a unique set of challenges as a chef, and according to Nielsen, “It comes down to a lot of timing. It’s all hurry, hurry, hurry, and go, go, go… I enjoy it.”
Nielsen relishes the opportunity to cook outdoors at beautiful venues such as the Diamond Cross Ranch, where his tuna tartare tacos, huckleberry Bellinis, and bacon-wrapped dates share the spotlight with a horse whisperer.
Nielsen finds his deepest inspiration in his tight-knit family, and he dreams of one day owning a farm so his daughters can grow up cultivating vegetables, making cheese, and carrying on the family tradition of food made with love.