Jordan Petriello was only 18 when he began washing dishes at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. After five years of working in the kitchen, he was promoted to sous chef.
Petriello returned to his hometown of South Plainfield late last year from New York City. For two years he had worked at Benno (now closed) and Rezdôra. In January, Petriello joined the team at il Nido in Marlboro as a line cook; in April, he was promoted to sous chef.
In June, Jordan landed his first executive chef position at il Nido, where he set out to fill the considerable shoes of chef Joseph Voller, who moved on after making il Nido a top-rated restaurant.
“As you work through the ranks throughout the years, everything kind of prepares you for that moment,” Petriello says.
Growing up, Petriello enjoyed Italian dinners every Sunday with his family. His love for Italian cuisine, which he describes as “all about simplicity,” continues.
“Every chef wants to showcase their creativity,” Petriello says. “I’m enjoying being able to do that now.”
What drew you to working at il Nido?
Jordan Petriello: It had been in the New Jersey Monthly Top 30, and I was working in New York. For most of my career, I’ve been cooking Italian food. I was searching for a great Italian restaurant to work at because I wanted to head back to New Jersey.
Do you see a big difference between New York and New Jersey diners?
The diners in New York are a little more content with the menu. I feel like in my time in New Jersey, the diners are a little bit more into substituting some things on the menu. The diners in New York can be a little more ambitious, but I still try to sneak my ambitious ideas into the menu here.
What was it like going from sous to executive chef at il Nido?
It was a great learning experience. The former chefs were very talented. As a sous, I was introduced to a lot of our vendors. I learned a lot of things in terms of techniques and how to be creative. I’d sum it up as: All eyes are on me now!
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
I give the majority of credit to my brother, who went to the Culinary Institute of America. He was doing an externship at the Trump National Golf Club, and that’s where I got my first job. I didn’t go to culinary school or anything. I worked my way up. I started when I was 18 as a prep cook and washing dishes. Over time I started to work the cold station, and I was there five years when I basically left as a sous chef.
Do you feel you learned just as much from experience as you would have in school?
I feel like I absorbed a lot more. You’re only going to absorb so much in a classroom compared to when you’re thrown directly into the fire.
What changes did you make at il Nido?
I slowly changed things to become more simplified, with very minimal ingredients. I’m using modern techniques, but also staying true to Italian food—which is all about simplicity, in my opinion. I’m focusing on seasonal ingredients as well.
Do you have a favorite dish on the menu?
I would probably say our mushroom lasagna. We have a nice egg dough with some sautéed oyster mushrooms, topped off with fontina cheese that we get from northern Italy. It’s perfect for the colder months ahead. By October, our fall menu will be in full effect.
What do you hope to bring to il Nido?
I have a very talented team, and we are staying consistent with what we are doing at this point. I just want to keep going in that direction. Over time, we hope to be noticed by a lot more people.