Doers and Dreamers – Niels Nielsen

I envision some chefs as sort of a ‘culinary samurai’ when I hear about the diverse experiences they have in applying their trade to various cuisines in different parts of the country, and the sometimes the world. Luckily, many of them settle down here in the Hudson Valley. Meet this week’s Doer and Dreamer, Niels Nielsen, who has been been making his mark in this area for awhile now and more recently with a brand new project in Uptown Kingston.

Your name: Niels Nielsen

Business or organization: Frogmore Tavern / Duo Bistro

Occupation: Chef / owner

What is your approach to your business or occupation that makes you unique?
As an owner try and be honest with the staff and provide an opportunity to grow, learn and create. For myself I am trying to consciously take myself out of my comfort zone every chance I get. I try to stay away from what is expected, and do things differently.

Where are you from originally?
Grew up in Maryland and then moved to Los Angeles for 12 years.

What brought you to the Kingston area and keeps you in this area?
I had a friend in LA that worked in the kitchen of a restaurant I worked at as well. He owed me money but was unable to pay. He moved back to the Hudson Valley where he was originally from. I knew he couldn’t pay me back, but he did offer me a job if I moved here. It was a kitchen position at The Bear café in Woodstock. I wanted a change of scenery so thought, why not? I ended up working at The Bear Café for 3 years. Since that time, with a few exceptions I have owned or co-owned 5 restaurants in the Hudson Valley over the past 20 years.

What is your favorite hangout in this area and why?
The Elephant on Wall Street in Kingston. Small place doing really focused cooking, undiluted by volume or widespread appeal.

When you’re not in Kingston, what’s your idea of a wonderful city to visit, and why?
San Francisco, hands down. Best food scene I’ve encountered. Less frantic, aggressive and until recently, cheaper than Manhattan.

Tell us something that we never would have guessed about you.
I always wanted to be a furniture/ industrial designer. Now I get to design several dishes per day although results are ephemeral.