In the Kitchen: Cucina Rustica Chef Brian Nadeau’s Netflix Fame

A TV appearance put this Cranston chef and his Italian eatery on the map


Back in January, Cranston-based chef Brian Nadeau made his national TV debut as a competitor on the Netflix reality cooking show Pressure Cooker. “I never thought I would do anything like this,” Nadeau says on the first of eight episodes. “I’m a street chef. I didn’t go to school for any cooking whatsoever.”   

Nadeau filmed the show, during which he competed with 10 other chefs for a $100,000 prize, in Los Angeles last winter. Looking back on the experience now, Nadeau says he probably fit the producers’ desire to cast a tattooed, self-taught chef. “When I first got there, I admit, I was intimidated,” Nadeau says. “I was like, what did I sign up for?’ I started seeing these young chefs, fresh out of school, and some of them had worked for superstar chefs. I was worried about having a challenge I had not trained for.”   

Starting in high school with a job at a now-closed pizza restaurant in Pawtucket, Nadeau, 42, learned how to cook through various front- and back-of-house jobs. For the past seven years, he has owned Italian-American restaurant Cucina Rustica in Cranston with his wife, Gina. He describes his menu as “comfort food-forward” and “feeling like you’re at grandma’s house on a Sunday.” Dishes include classics like linguine alle vongole, escarole and beans, and veal marsala. He also offers a popular takeout-only, three-course chicken parmesan meal called Bomb Chicken Parm” 

Now that Pressure Cooker has been streaming for a few months, Nadeau has been pleasantly surprised to see the positive reaction to his participation on the show, which he had to keep a secret for almost a year. “We have been so busy,” he says. “Since the show dropped my business has increased by 35 percent, and the winter is normally our slow time. I’m flattered and humbled to have people driving far distances just to meet me.” 

He adds that people now often recognize him around Rhode Island, including at the gym and supermarket, which is a new experience. “It’s a bizarre and surreal feeling,” he says. “I’m just a kid from Cranston.” 

Nadeau never sought out the type of fame that comes with appearing on a popular TV program. In fact, when producers first reached out to him about the opportunity through Instagram, he thought it was a joke or a scam. “To make a long story short, direct messages turned to emails, emails turned to phone calls, phone calls turned to Zoom meetings, and eventually I’m in the Zoom meetings with producers from Netflix,” he says. “But I didn’t even know it was for Netflix at first.” 

Nadeau says he’s happy with how he performed in the competition, which involves the chefs judging each other’s cooking, but he wishes he “wasn’t so nervous. At some points I was really in my head,” he says. “My nerves got the best of me.” 

He adds that the experience, including becoming friends with talented chefs from all over the country, has “lit a fire” in him. “It gave me an extra boost of motivation,” Nadeau says. “I came home and ripped up my menu. Now, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”   

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