Nicholas “Nick” Deshon–newest executive chef at the Inn at the Pier in Pismo Beach—got his first taste of the Central Coast when he and his family would leave their Huntington Beach home for the sunny shores of Lake Nacimiento.
“I have been coming up to (Lake) Nacimiento my entire life,” DeShon, 29, said recently from the oceanfront hotel, where he plans to debut a new menu this month. “My dad always had a boat and we came up here all the time.”
Whizzing by Pismo Beach on those numerous trips up Highway 101 to the lake, DeShon said he didn’t think twice about the possibility of one day working in the seaside town, let alone heading up the kitchen at the city’s newest boutique hotel.
“Never once,” he said. “Always loved the area and thought if we (my wife, Isabella, and I) could end up somewhere, it would be on the Central Coast. But our plan was to continue to move around for a while.”
As they do, plans change, and the couple, who had been living and working in Las Vegas for six years, made the decision to relocate from Nevada to Paso Robles, where DeShon accepted a job at the then-newly opened The Hatch.
“It was kind of exactly what I wanted to do after leaving (Joël) Robuchon because it’s wood-fired, comfort food, just really raw,” DeShon said. “It was the exact opposite of what I had been doing, and what I really wanted to experience.”
During his years in Las Vegas, DeShon went quickly from working at a cruddy job in a bar with a kitchen to putting out fine dining plates at some of the top restaurants on the strip, including Michael Mina’s Nob Hill at the MGM Grand and another of Mina’s restaurants—Michael Mina—at the Bellagio.
It was during his days at the Bellagio where DeShon learned to be fast and also work with finesse.
“That kitchen was a beast,” DeShon said, noting in a single night at Michael Mina, 400 covers (tables) would be served. “To this day, it’s still the gnarliest kitchen I have worked in. That place is crazy, super busy. It was tough, but I built a lot of speed. I got very fast and learned a ton, a lot of speed and technicality, finesse.”
After spending 18 months working for Mina’s restaurants, DeShon landed a position at the famed French restaurant, Joël Robuchon, inside the MGM Grand.
“Ever since I moved to Vegas, I had wanted to work at that restaurant because it’s the top. It’s the pinnacle. It’s the highest rated restaurant in town,” DeShon said. “I was able to get my foot in the door there and that place is crazy—the standards.”
DeShon was offered a position as a cook at Joël Robuchon, where he stayed for three years, working his way up the culinary ladder to junior sous chef and sous chef. He eventually became the kitchen’s most senior sous chef and was the only person who could open and close all four cooking stations.
“Everything is precise, measured, perfect,” DeShon explained. “And it’s dead silent. No talking (in the kitchen).”
DeShon, who thought he was going to play football after high school until a serious injury his junior year waylaid those plans, said he had gone “pretty much as far” as he could go at Joël Robuchon when he decided to leave the restaurant, as well as Sin City.
“I could make all this money, but it wasn’t really anything that I wanted to do,” he explained. “I was still thinking about learning and furthering my knowledge.”
DeShon hired several recruiters to help search for his next career move, which could have seen him move to Texas, Illinois or Washington D.C., but he wasn’t interested in moving too far from family. His parents and his wife’s parents live in California and his grandparents in Paso Robles.
It was on a trip he and Isabella—she is a flight attendant for ACI Jet in San Luis Obispo—took to visit DeShon’s grandparents that they decided to move back to California, so DeShon could work at The Hatch.
“Vegas was interesting,” DeShon said. “We only wanted to be there for a year, make some money, establish ourselves a little and then we were going to come back. Six years later … It’s hard, you fall into that lifestyle.”
After high school, DeShon worked in commercial cement for his uncle for a short stint. He swung shovels and dug holes and jokes it was probably the best shape he was ever in, but DeShon knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do.
“I decided maybe that wasn’t the life I wanted to live,” he explained. “Since I was a kid, I always liked cooking. So why not try something I really liked to do? That’s kind of how it happened.”
DeShon attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles, interning in New York City at Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, which he described as “pretty cool.”
After his internship, DeShon moved to the Bay Area, where he took a job at MacArthur Park in Palo Alto. He worked there for about a year before moving to Las Vegas with Isabella.
“We had enough money to get a hotel room for a week,” DeShon said. “We had no jobs, nowhere to live, nothing lined up and we made it happen.”
DeShon looks forward to not only using his skills to grow the menu at the Inn at the Pier’s two restaurants—Rooftop and Blonde—but to also grow the clientele, as he hopes to build a local following with his food.
He draws inspiration for dishes from the four seasons and also previous meals he has enjoyed, and mentioned the words ‘bright,’ ‘light’ and ‘fresh’ when talking about his new menu for Rooftop.
“I really look at what’s in season and look at what I can get from people I deal with,’” he said. “Obviously, I draw from my past experience. I think I lean toward a very clean, French style but not French food, just technique.”
He added, “The idea is to really get our name out with the locals. That’s what I learned in Paso. It’s tourist, too, but it’s really the locals that keep you going year-round and that’s what we need here.”
When not in the kitchen professionally, DeShon enjoys visiting other eating establishments in the county. He and Isabella have been married for three years and been together for 10. Although the couple met in middle school, they didn’t begin dating until after high school.
DeShon learned to cook as a young boy with his grandpa. The two would roll out pasta together for dishes like chicken noodle soup.
“My grandpa really liked to cook, so he would teach me things,” DeShon said. “We’d make pasta together and do stuff like that. I have a picture of him and I making pasta when I was really young. I think about that a lot.”
The Inn at the Pier is located at 601 Cypress St. Hours for the Rooftop and Blonde vary. Visit www.theinnatthepier.com for more information.