A Rising Star
Man of Mystery or Mother Teresa?
Roman "Nico" Nicolaev, a man orphaned by terrorism, who grew up poor in China, gained attention as he traveled like a vagabond in Asia. Using a little seed money and startling people skills, he started pop ups, kitchens, and the occasional restaurant in various locations, each a culinary marvel in producing inexpensive, delicious food. More than once, the pop up or kitchen fed people for free and the impoverished and starving were specifically invited to partake. In each location, he would instruct the individuals being left in possession after he prepared to move on to make the best use of locally sourced foods, and utilizing zero-loss techniques where every part of the vegetable or animal was used in one way or another. In many of the locations, he actually learned new ways to do this himself and spread them to others when he moved on.
Eventually, the interest spawned a contract to write a cookbook, which was wildly successful; so much so that another cookbook followed, and attention paid to Chef Nico continued to increase. His story was explored and publicized. People learned how growing up poor had taught him to make the best use of what foods were available and gave him his passion for giving back. Most of the murky details of his life were blamed on the poor documentation and standards for fostering orphans in China; in fact, when this was brought up, it only further spurred his rise as he was able to fill in the blanks on several of the locations where he'd lived and learned different cooking techniques, or cultural flavors.
At the peak of this rise, when people were at their most interested in this pauper prince and his charitable habits he was offered a deal for a television show. He named it 'Destination Deglazed', hinting at finding value even in the drippings and sticky bits, something others might discard, in a cooking pan. The show enjoyed limited success, focusing on exploring rural destinations, cultural flavors, and the joys of simple food. The success of the show spawned a second whose theme and idea were made by the network carrying Destination Deglazed; a show that they named 'Roman Holiday'.
Roman Holiday, being a show about decadent enjoyment of leisure time in vacation destinations, did not sit nearly so well with the viewers who had come to know 'Chef Nico' as it seemed very against the character of who he was and what he wanted to do in the world. With the sudden dive in ratings, Nico sank a significant portion of his own money into attempting to sustain Destination Deglazed, the show that he loved, but it wasn't enough after the global economic downturn, and soon both Destination Deglazed and Roman Holiday were canceled, having run for 4 and 2 years, respectively.
Emigrating to America was a great way to pick up the pieces. He settled in the middle of the country where the agrarian population afforded him new opportunities to explore his zero-loss, locally sourced food ideas. The ever-changing population at Kansas State University, combined with a strong presence of students from Asia, created a recipe for near-instant success using almost exactly the same formula he'd used while traveling in Asia. Local pop-ups, a soup kitchen, and then a restaurant catering to cultural flavors that the foreign students were all-too pleased to find, and soon he was back in business.
The agricultural college of the university took interest in his ideas, sponsoring projects, authorizing grants, and allowing students to undertake internships with his business as part of their degree programs. Being featured in the K-State Collegian turned into spots on local news stations, which were picked up around the region as human interest pieces to go alongside K-State's very successful football program.
Blue Earth Plaza
His initial boom of success did not make him rich; it might have, but instead of living high, he sank the money into the community and worked with the city of Manhattan to build a 'green space' with public fountains, a discovery center for children, and buildings built with optimal environmental technology. Many local businesses pooled resources to help make the green space a reality, naming it "Blue Earth Plaza".
A Return to Prime Time
After this hit the news, Nico managed to parlay his previous experience into another contract for a television show. This show, he named "Peasant to Palace" and focused it on making up-and-coming chefs' dreams come true by helping them learn to locally source foods, to make use of every part of food in zero-loss techniques, and taught them to not only make the food they were good at, but to learn the cooking techniques and flavors of many cultures from around the world so that their portfolio could expand and their food could stay fresh and interesting.