Chef Nico Abello plans new restaurant with Greenville’s Table 301 | Food

Food & Drinks /

GREENVILLE — The sunchokes have arrived, and Nico Abello breathes a sigh of relief.

It’s not that the chef couldn’t have built a dish around other ingredients. After all, the native of France came up through the ranks of Michelin-star restaurants and earned one Michelin star as executive chef at L’Appart in New York City.

It’s that Abello likes the way sunchokes tow the line between obscure and every day, the way the root vegetable garners attention and is also overlooked.

In the sunchoke, Abello sees possibility.

Including plans to own a new restaurant under the banner of Greenville’s Table 301 Restaurant Group.

The chef formally, but quietly, joined the Table 301 team in mid-November and feels he is on the precipice of something new for himself and potentially for Greenville.

Sunchokes are just the beginning.

Abello was the executive chef for the Grand Bohemian Lodge’s opening culinary team in Greenville before leaving in early November soon after it opened. Three others, who each once worked for Table 301, joined him: pastry chef Tarciani Harger, chef de cuisine Kyle Swartzendruber and sous chef Nikki Compton.

“That I’ve been part of this opening team with the hotel was a great experience,” Abello said, his French accent punctuating his words as he reflected on the recent changes. “I learned a lot professional, but also me as a person, as a human. But at the end, it was not a fit.

“I love what I’m doing,” he said. “There are no regrets.”

A new restaurant is in the works

On a recent Wednesday morning, Abello appears content — calm almost, a word not commonly associated with the freneticism of restaurants. He smiles widely, his shoulders relaxed, his chef’s coat with his name, title and the Table 301 logo pristine.

Leaving his post at the hotel was not in the plans, but Abello believes that everything happens for a reason, and here it is — a new restaurant.

Plans are in place to open a restaurant with Abello as the executive chef and Table 301 Restaurant Group as a partner. Eventually, the restaurant will become Abello’s solely.

It could fulfill Table 301 founder and president Carl Sobocinski’s long hope that he might one day open a restaurant of Michelin-star caliber in the city he loves.

Sobocinski called the decision to bring Abello on board even without a specific position in mind “a no brainer.”

“He brings a culinary background like none we’ve ever had before, and it’s a great opportunity for our entire team to have the chance to work closely with him,” Sobocinski said.

The model of opening the restaurant will follow a similar one to that of opening Jianna. Then, Chef Michael Kramer, who joined the Table 301 team in 2013, helped form the idea for the concept, shaped it, led it, and in February 2020 took full ownership of it.

Sobocinski has built a model of sorts of spreading restaurant ownership. He first helped Jorge “Papi” Barrales, a longtime employee and creator of Papi’s Tacos, with taking over that business in 2019.

A similar arrangement allowed Passerelle Bistro general manager Michael Minelli and his wife, executive chef, Jenifer Minelli, to take over the French-inspired restaurant in 2022.

“With each new concept, it’s not about adding to the Table 301 portfolio, but it’s about the next generation of restaurant owners and chefs,” Sobocinski said. “When we open a new concept now, we open it with the assumption someone else will be owning it in a matter of years.”

It’s a new approach to growth.

“Lately, we’ve been going into each restaurant knowing who that person will be, and in this case, yes, the plan is that Nico will own his own restaurant here in Greenville someday sooner than later,” he said.

The new, yet-to-be named restaurant is still in the idea phase, but it exists still, and for that Abello is humbled and very excited.

The chef began his career at the age of 15 working in a two-star Michelin restaurant in France. The idea of ownership has floated in and out of his definition of possible and not possible, and while he’s nervous, the potential to carve something from scratch is thrilling.

The sunchoke will be central to one of the dishes on Abello’s forthcoming series of tasting-menu dinners with Table 301. All 12 dinners sold out within 48 hours, but the hope is to schedule more in the future.

The dinner series, which was announced last week, are a taste of what the restaurant could be. The design of the 12 dinners is more in the style of a pop-up restaurant, with two seatings per evening and a more fluid dining experience than, say, a wine pairing dinner.

The menus will reflect seasonality and also Abello’s love of infusing life into unexpected ingredients.

“You take one element and what can you do with one element?” Abello said. “It can be a root and how can you make this vegetable some kind of ‘wow?’ But at the same time, very simple. When I cook and I create menus, I don’t want people to try to find what that is. Eating is a pleasure.” 

A passion for cooking and restaurants 

Abello carved his niche in the culinary world growing up in France, though he admits he was a very picky eater as a child. The fact that he now eats everything and genuinely enjoys every aspect of food gives the father of two hope that his young sons will “be fine.”

The chef’s talent landed him at the age of 17 in an internship program at a two-star Michelin restaurant in Versailles. While he had begun working in the front of the house, Abello was drawn to the back of the house. The kitchen, he said, is where so much magic happens.

“It was so fascinating to me,” he said. “The peeling, cutting carrots, basic things, but how it was organized and in an almost military way. One day, I just start working in a kitchen and I never left after that.”

The chef built his skills working in restaurants from London to New York.

In 2016, Abello helped open L’Appart. The New York restaurant garnered attention for its elegant but comfortable style and approach to cuisine. The restaurant earned a Michelin star within six months of opening.

That’s where he was until he fell in love with Greenville. He discovered the city while doing a guest chef dinner at Restaurant 17 back in 2018. He and his wife, at that time parents to a 1-year-old, were taken by the city’s charm.

The family returned for a visit in 2021, now with a second child in tow. The trip was so wonderful that the couple ended up buying a house on the spot.

Abello’s family moved to Greenville in October 2021, and the chef followed six months later.

Abello uses this to explain that while the Grand Bohemian was not the right fit, Greenville most certainly is. He never considered leaving even without certainty about where he’d land culinarily.

That he landed at Table 301 is an added bonus, he said.

For now, Abello is focused on testing the waters with the tasting dinners, spending time at each of the Table 301 restaurants and enjoying and appreciating the unexpected twists and turns that life brings.

“I feel happy and I feel like myself,” Abello said. “I will continue to learn. There are things I don’t know. That is the wonderful thing about the kitchen.”

For more information about future tasting dinners visit

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