Stories / Beard House, Foundation News

The First Beard House Fellow is Ready to Learn

Get to know Nicole Merino, our inaugural Fellow

Maggie Borden

May 07, 2021


Nicole Merino from shoulders up wearing black leather jacket outdoors photo by Leidy Sanchez
Photo: Leidy Sanchez

For decades, cooking at the James Beard House has been an aspiration for many chefs and considered a career milestone. This month, we launched the Beard House Fellows program, presented by Capital One, which re-envisions the potential of this historic space into a hub of training and professional development for talented emerging chefs.

The program’s pilot, beginning in May and running through October 2021, is launching in partnership with the Food Education Fund (FEF). Our initial class of six Fellows will all be alumni of FEF’s New York-based partner high schools.  

Each Fellow will have a one-month residency at the Beard House, receiving trainings in financial and legal matters, public relations, policy and advocacy, social media, and more. Fellows will also develop a Beard Box meal kit in collaboration with Great Performances, available for purchasing and shipping across the continental U.S., with special perks for Capital One cardholders. Get your Beard Box now.

Our inaugural Fellow, Nicole Merino, grew up in a restaurant family, watching her uncle prepare dishes and running the line. Nicole quickly fell in love with cooking, whipping up dinners at home and pursuing her passion first at the Food and Finance High School in New York City, and then at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Nicole has held internships and positions at Foragers Table, ABC Cocina, and the Food Network. She’s excited to sharpen her social media skills during her residency and learn more about how to best advocate for her community, while also brushing up on her wine and liquor knowledge.

We asked each Fellow a few questions about their culinary dreams and signature dishes. Read on for more about Nicole’s food faves and pantry must-haves:

JBF: Do you have a signature dish?

Nicole Merino: Rib-eye steak with roasted garlic chimichurri.

JBF: What is your earliest food memory?

NM: Baking and frosting my cousin's birthday cake with my aunt when I was either five or six.

JBF:  What is an item you think everyone should have in their pantry?

NM: Flakey Maldon salt.

JBF: What's a culinary destination you hope to go to one day?

NM: Peru.

JBF: What is your favorite current food trend?

NM: Cheesy Korean hot dogs!

Order Nicole's Beard Box—now on sale through May 20.

Learn more about the Beard House Fellows program, presented by Capital One.


Maggie Borden is director of content strategy and development at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.