As a rising culinary star and Food Network Judge, Chef Kristin Sollenne has been making headlines for her contemporary food philosophy, lightened-up Italian fare, and approachable cooking tips, with regular appearances on WCBS’s Morning News and WLNY’s “Live from the Couch,” as well as a feature on NBC’s “Today” show, Fox5 Good Day New York, Fox Business and guest judge on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay and Kitchen Casino. In 2014, she was featured on season ten of Food Network Star as a mentor to finalist Lucca Della Casa.
Sollenne, a 2013 honoree of Zagat’s Top 30 under 30, has cooked for Taylor Swift, Seth Rogan, Ed Sheeran and the entire SNL cast. She oversees the three kitchens of the New York City Restaurant Group’s (NYCRG) Bocca Di Bacco. “My main philosophy is farm to- table with a focus on clean ingredients and keeping it simple,” the 28-year-old chef says. “I think simple dishes speak a lot louder than over complicated ones. Simplicity actually enhances the flavors.”
Sollenne’s other culinary tenets for modernizing Italian cuisine include moderating portion sizes and using nutritious and full-flavored alternative ingredients. She centers most menu items on farm-fresh vegetables and herbs, lean proteins, whole grains, and heart-healthy olive oil while limiting the amount of butter and cream. “I get asked a lot: ‘How can you make healthy Italian food?’ she says. “It’s all about the choices you make. You can still cook satisfying, great-tasting dishes on the lighter side when you use fresh in-season products. Or I’ll make pasta with whole wheat, or spinach spaghetti, so it’s not just all about heavy starches.”
The self-taught chef discovered her interest and talent in creating fresh spins on classic Italian dishes while she was growing up in California with her Italian-American family. She honed in on creating wholesome meals without compromising on flavor as she assisted her parents in attaining their weight-loss goals while still enjoying their favorite foods. “Cooking for my parents really ignited that spark for me to move to New York and getting involved in the restaurant industry here.”
Sollenne has worked with the NYCRG since 2008, bringing a California farm-to- table mindset to traditional Southern Italian cuisine. Sollenne’s role as executive chef and culinary director she oversees the expanding chain, works with each location’s chefs on healthy cooking techniques, and manages the training program as well as implement new innovative menu developments. Prior to helming culinary operations at Bocca Di Bacco, she served as opening chef at NYCRG’s Vucciria in the Theater District, which she helped rebrand to another Bocca Di Bacco in summer 2012.
When not designing the next reimagined dish or catering and designing exquisite events, the Upper West Side resident enjoys running, dancing, and traveling for food inspiration.