Why Influencer Chef Nick DiGiovanni Has No Social Media Apps on His Phone
Nick DiGiovanni has 20 million followers and a social media empire. Here's how he keeps his values on the front burner—including the favorite recipe he learned from Grandma, and "the biggest impact" he's trying to make in the world of food.
Cooking was once an often isolating pursuit, done alone in the kitchen with just you and your ingredients. Not any more—or at least it doesn’t feel like it. Now anyone can have a professional chef next to them in the kitchen. Just ask MasterChef finalist & social media megastar, Nick DiGiovanni, who has over 20 million followers, including Reese Witherspoon and Selena Gomez, across TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Out June 13, 2023, Nick DiGiovanni’s debut cookbook, Knife Drop: Creative Recipes Anyone Can Cook, combines many of the things his fans love: Mouth-watering dishes (Smoky Mezcal Rigatoni! Browned Butter Lobster Rolls!) and photos of the affable chef (with leading-man looks), who makes cracking an egg somehow easy on the eyes.
Nick DiGiovanni talked with The Healthy @Readers Digest about teaching a new generation how to cook, his mission to get Tom Brady to take a break from his super-healthy diet, and why he did a social media cleanse from his phone.
Chef Nick DiGiovanni’s new cookbook
The Healthy @Readers Digest: First of all, congrats on your cookbook, Knife Drop. As someone who thinks they cannot cook, I especially love the concept of creative recipes that anyone can cook. How did you land on this idea and angle for your debut cookbook?
Nick DiGiovanni: The very first cookbook concept I landed on was actually a Persian cookbook. I happen to be part Persian, so I figured that would be a really fun thing to do and make it accessible. Eventually, as I was looking at that, I found all these different recipes that were from all over the place. I realized my family comes from many different backgrounds. I’ve learned to cook and train in many different places and ways from many different people, so I thought it could be really fun to just keep it open-ended and not only have recipes that are from all over the world and many different cultures and backgrounds, but also recipes that were not limiting when it comes to the reader or the home cook that’s trying to go off of the recipe.
The Healthy: You have one recipe that I read was passed down from your grandmother: The scalloped scallops. Tell me about that one.
Nick DiGiovanni: I tried to put one recipe from each grandparent into the book. The scalloped scallops are also one of my favorites. It’s mostly my grandmother’s recipe. I’ve made very minor adjustments to it—not necessarily even to make it my own—I kind of wanted it to be hers in the book still, but just to make it a little bit easier to follow along and put my own tiny twist on there.
My dad’s mom was the one who I looked up to the most in food growing up. That dish, to me, is a really great example of how good food does not have to be sort of this crazy, over-the-top, intense restaurant-trained chef-based thing. It can be very simple, and sometimes simple is best.
Nick DiGiovanni on making cooking ‘cool’
The Healthy: A lot of people today don’t always have somebody passing down recipes to them. There’s a generation learning how to cook through social media. I find it really interesting that people like you, and even Brooklyn Beckham or Florence Pugh, are making cooking cool for a younger audience. I’m just curious about your thoughts on that.
Nick DiGiovanni: We live in a unique time where it’s really easy to order food and not think about learning to cook anymore. One funny thing I thought about going through life and going through school is, I think there’s a moment of reckoning in a lot of people’s lives where, maybe they’re on their own in an apartment for the first time, or they just purely feel the desire to, at some point, want to make something. Then they realize not only do they not have any kitchen equipment at home, but they’ve never even picked up a knife or a pot or a pan, or they don’t know what half the ingredients in any given market are or how to use them. It’s fun to be, hopefully, one of those people that people can look up to for some food advice.
Nick DiGiovanni on sustainability
The Healthy: You went to Harvard University where you created your own concentration, Food and Climate. Is that right?
Nick DiGiovanni: Yes, that’s correct.
The Healthy: What is the Harvard food program like?
Nick DiGiovanni: That’s the thing, there’s really not one. It was just kind of interesting. Ultimately, education was just always a very important thing in my family, which I’m super lucky and grateful for. Where Harvard lacked in its food education side of everything, it certainly made up for in the connections that I made there.
The Healthy: Is concern for the climate still something you incorporate into your work today?
Nick DiGiovanni: I work very closely with this company called FarmLink. Essentially, the simplest way to describe what they do is they save food that would otherwise be wasted. Let’s say during Covid, if ingredients were going to get thrown away on a farm because restaurants didn’t want them because they didn’t have enough people coming in to actually need the product to cook with, they would essentially pay the farmer a fair price for the food and then bring that food to a food bank. And everyone wins. We do a lot of projects together. To me, that is the biggest impact you can have in the food space, is saving food that’s otherwise going to be wasted. People don’t realize how many resources go into growing something, a seed at a farm, to a market, to a restaurant and to your plate.
Nick DiGiovanni on social media & mental health
The Healthy: How do you manage keeping up with your 20 million followers while also not feeling like you have to be hooked on your phone? And how do you deal with the mental health aspect of social media?
Nick DiGiovanni: I don’t have any social media on my phone, so I don’t have TikTok or Instagram or YouTube or anything. I certainly check in once in a while to keep updated with any trends or just to check in on what my friends have made or really whatever. But I don’t have it just because—
The Healthy: Really? That’s so fascinating that a social media mega star wouldn’t have apps downloaded on their phone.
Nick DiGiovanni: I just did it a few years ago as something to do for the new year that I just thought would be helpful for me, just to be on my phone less. I kind of like to stay off my phone as much as I can. The reality in the kitchen is I also don’t want to be picking up my phone all the time. I just want to be there without any distractions and be able to fully and freely [work] without having my phone next to me. People are always surprised, and I think some people don’t even believe me when I tell them.
The Healthy: How was your phone affecting you when you decided to put parameters around your use?
Nick DiGiovanni: It’s really easy to spend a long time on it, and everyone uses it in a totally different way. There’s definitely good ways to use it, and there are some not so good ways to use it. I think it was more just that I felt like I was on there a little bit too much. I also didn’t want to be too heavily influenced by other people’s recipes that I was seeing or other things like that. I thought for me, it would help me actually creatively if I didn’t quite see as much, and if I could just really think on my own.
Nick DiGiovanni on his self-care & wellness routines
The Healthy: You’re famous for visiting a lot of fast food restaurants. I’m curious, is there anything you won’t eat for either preferences or health reasons? And how much do you take nutrition into account when you’re eating and cooking?
Nick DiGiovanni: I’ve always just sort of felt like I want to taste everything at least once. There are very few foods that I don’t like. Sun-dried tomatoes for me are just hard to eat, which is crazy because in some forms and applications, I think they’re OK. Then other places I could never eat a sun-dried tomato, just plain and straight out of a bag.
But, in general, I’m of the mindset that I’ll always kind of taste and eat everything. I think down the road in my life, I’ll probably make some choices where maybe I’ll try to be a little bit more conscious about rarely eating meat or fish, if that seems like the best way to eat mindfully when keeping the environment front of mind. But for right now, there’s so many things I want to taste.
The Healthy: How do you stay healthy and in shape when your job is to make delicious food for a living? Do you have a workout you like?
Nick DiGiovanni: I use the WHOOP fitness band. I have a certain level of activity that I try to hit on there every single day. And I don’t give myself any excuses. There are some nights where I’ve been traveling and I’ve been up at 10:30 p.m. in a hotel running up and down the stairway and down the halls of a hotel just to hit that for the day.
The Healthy: Do you have any other self-care routines that you do every day that you refuse to skip?
Nick DiGiovanni: Even if it’s just 15 minutes, I try to stop every day to have a quick lunch in the middle of the day because it’s something that I wasn’t so good at in the past. Overall, I try to make sure that I’m getting outside doing something, whether it’s a sport or taking a run. That’s been a really good thing for me to just kind of clear my mind from everything.
The Healthy: I saw you’re followed by Reese Witherspoon. What other celebrities have you noticed that follow you that you were excited about?
Nick DiGiovanni: Oh, man. I had a lot of fun doing Selena + Chef, her show on HBO. That was a blast. I think she’s super into food. Then we did a really fun partnership a while back with Tom Brady as well, who hopefully, I would love to make some more, make a few more videos with him down the road. Because I know he’s more of the very healthy, clean eating, but maybe now that he’s not playing football anymore, maybe he’ll give himself a treat once in a while. We’ll see.