I’m a professionally trained chef, recipe developer, food writer, and tv personality best known for being second runner up on the 10th season of Food Network Star. From 2010 through 2015, I owned and operated a personal chef and catering service called The Dinner Belle. I have a degree in Communications from Louisiana State University and studied both hot foods and pastry at the Academy of Culinary Arts. I have over 15 years of experience working in the food and beverage industries.
I’m currently the Corporate Chef and Brand Ambassador for Australis Barramundi (see here for details) as well as a brand ambassador for Finlandia Butter and Cheese. I’m also host of the long-running syndicated TV cooking show, The Chef’s Kitchen. In the spring of 2017, I’ll be opening a coffee and smoothie shop in Brigantine, NJ, called Soulberri.
To learn more about my professional experience and explore the ways we can work together, please visit the Work with Coley page.
I post two recipes each week here on Coley Cooks. Tuesday recipes are always in the traditional food blog format with photos and detailed instructions, while Friday recipes feature a quick and easy video tutorial. Occasionally I’ll pop in to take you on a tour of my garden or tell you about my experiences traveling to new and exciting places. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, there’s a little something here for everyone. I tackle everything from making a basic tomato sauce to curing and smoking your own bacon.
My style of cooking is dictated mostly by the seasons since I’m lucky enough to experience all four of them where I live. You’ll find lots of garden-inspired, veggie-centric recipes, plus plenty of sweet treats, as I have a mouth full of sweet teeth. You’ll also find lots of seafood, a little bit of meat, plenty of pasta, some breakfast, the occasional beverage and even a few homemade beauty products. Oh! And tomatoes. Sooo many tomatoes. It’s a major obsession.
We live on the southern Jersey coast and spend as much time with our feet in the sand and sea as possible. We love gardening, surfing, sailing, fishing, traveling, and seeing live music and comedy shows. We also love eating, but isn’t that a given?
I have a big sense of humor and always write this blog with a smile, so please, always read it with one. 🙂
For inquiries about content, sponsorship, advertisements, appearances or just to say “hey!” drop me a line at ColeyCooks at gmail dot com (I have to write it that way to fool the spambots).
Frequently Asked Questions! Because, sure, why not.
Where does the nickname Coley come from?
From my dad, when I was about 2. It’s just the second syllable of my name, Nicole, with a y at the end. It’s pronounced Coal-ee and rhymes with goalie. For some reason I still get people calling me Collie (like the dog), Chloe (like the designer) or thinking it’s short for Coleen. It’s far less common than Nikki, but that’s why I like it. I’ve always just felt like a Coley.
Whatever happened to that cowboy who won your season of Food Network Star?!
I don’t know! No one knows. Google him.
Do you still cook “Coastal Cuisine”?
Totally! I just stopped trying to shove it down everyone’s throat. I live on the coast. We cook lots of seafood and simple, bright, fresh food. But generally speaking, I cook food that makes me feel good, and sometimes it’s not simple, bright or even fresh. I’m over trying to make “Coastal Cuisine” happen. I’m just going to cook food that makes me happy, and food that I think will make you happy, too. Ya dig?
I’m confused. What the heck is “Too Full For School?”
Too Full For School was the name of the blog I started when I was working as a personal chef and wanted a hobby to express my thoughts and feelings about food, separate from what I was doing in my career. The name is a play on the phrase, “too cool for school” and my friends and I used to say it after we ate too much and had that “way too full” feeling. You know the one. Too full for school – get it?! Right, neither did most other people. So when I started blogging more seriously in 2015, I changed the name to Coley Cooks to better represent my overall brand.
What do you shoot with?
Currently I shoot with a Canon Rebel SL1, a kit lens and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. Up until October of 2014 I was just using an old point-and-shoot, a Canon Power Shot A3100 IS. I’m still pretty new to the whole photography scene. Have any tips for me? I’m all ears! And eyes.
May I copy your recipes and photos?
You may take one photo and the title to post somewhere else, but please always link back to my site, and never copy the recipes or text word for word without my permission. I like to think I’m a pretty nice gal, so just shoot me an e-mail and ask. Cool?
Are you still doing TV? Where can we see you?
I currently host a show called “The Chef’s Kitchen,” which airs throughout the greater Philadelphia region weekdays at 5pm on The Comcast Network. I pop up about every other month on QVC to represent Australis Barramundi, and I’ll soon be featured on an infomercial for a really awesome product (to be announced…)! Reruns of Food Network Star are available on Netflix, and I’m always on demand over at the Coley Cooks YouTube channel!
Is Chaser your husband’s real name?
Yes! According to his folks, it’s the latin form of Caesar, pronounced “chay-czar.” But we pronounce it just like the swig of beer you take after doing a shot.
What’s your favorite food?
Tomatoes! But only the sweet, juicy ripe ones that come around July-September. Preferably heirlooms, the more colorful the better, New Jersey grown, and even better when they’re from my own backyard.
How long have you been gardening, and what do you grow?
I’ve kept a garden since we bought our first house in 2008. Every year it grows a little bigger, and every year I plant a little smarter. I grow tons of different heirloom tomatoes, my favorite varieties are currently: Sun Sugar Hybrid, Pineapple, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Black Krim, Big Zebra, Green Zebra, Yellow Brandywine, Purple Bumblebee, Mr. Stripey and Cherokee Purple. I grow lots of different hot peppers, cucumbers, beets, carrots, radishes, beans, peas, kale, chard, garlic, onions, potatoes, celery, arugula, pumpkins, squash, strawberries, melons, lettuces, meyer lemons, eggplant, tomatillos and a whole slew of different herbs. I’m always experimenting and trying different things! If you have any growing suggestions, drop me a line!
When are you going to open a restaurant?
Never! It’s not my thing. Well, never say never.
How do you stay fit?
I try to keep a happy balance between kale salads and brownies, and I’m always doing something active. I run, lift weights, do pilates, yoga and high intensity interval training. It takes real effort in the winter to hit the gym or go to a class, but summers are naturally active with plenty of planting, weeding, compost-turning, biking and stand-up paddle surfing.
When are you getting a puppy?
Dude, I’m so glad you asked! Hopefully very soon. 🙂
Random Coley Facts! Just because you actually scrolled down this far, here are a few things you
were probably definitely weren’t wondering about me:
I’m half Sicilian (Mom) and half Irish (Dad).
My big brother, Frank, has Autism, and he’s the coolest person I know. He draws a super rad comic book called The Invisible Robot, and I have my own character named Lady Robotta.
I play the ukulele (poorly), make balloon animals for fun and am damn good at roller skating.
I do not like okra, hot dogs, or any kind of “salad” that gets served with an ice cream scoop.
Aside from fashion and sometimes make-up, I loathe most “girly” things.
I’m a really, really bad dancer, but I have fun doing it anyway, mostly for everyone else’s amusement.
I love music, and can talk about my favorite bands as passionately as I talk about my favorite foods.
I’m really disorganized and hate cleaning, but I like clean and organized things. It’s a constant struggle.
I stood in the eye of Hurricane Katrina (Baton Rouge) AND Hurricane Sandy (Brigantine).
I’m a huge advocate for sustainable food systems, especially seafood and agriculture.
I lost my mom tragically to ALS when I was 22. Her name was Grace, and she was amazing.
I met my new roommate, Chaser, the day after my mom’s funeral, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
(Here’s a recipe for cookies because you seriously deserve one for actually reading down this far. High five!)