Meet the Seattle born contestant on your next favorite PBS cooking show

Seattle born Nikki Tomaino-Allemand is competing on PBS's The Great American Recipe.

America has been called a melting pot. And, our cuisine reflects this. Our immigrant roots have taken family recipes and evolved them to meet our new landscapes, adapting with new ingredients and techniques as they change hands between generations. PBS is celebrating American culinary diversity through an uplifting new competition series, The Great American Recipe.

Hosted by Alejandra Ramos and featuring judges Leah Cohen, Tiffany Derry and Graham Elliot (of Seattle), the series will give talented home cooks from different regions of the country the opportunity to showcase their beloved signature dishes and compete to win the national search for The Great American Recipe.

In addition to Graham Elliot, one of this season’s competitors will also be a familiar face for our KCTS 9 viewers! Nikki Tomaino-Allemand grew up in the Seattle area (she’s an Inglemoor High School alumna). She now lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons where she started her own meal delivery service for other busy moms. She also works with a local program that helps local youth receive culinary training and job placement in the food industry.  

Tomaino-Allemand credits her Pacific Northwest upbringing, her family's Italian roots and travel as her influences behind the dishes she is bringing to the table on The Great American Recipe. The foundation for her cooking is Southern Italian influenced by her family from the coastal town of Calabria. Her most cherished recipes are those passed down from her relatives, including her grandfather who taught her many of her favorite dishes.

KCTS 9 had an opportunity to chat with Tomaino-Allemand ahead of the premiere. Here’s what she had to say about the exciting new competition series, her favorite Seattle food and more.   

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What inspired you to get involved with The Great American Recipe

I have a huge passion for cooking. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into [laughs]. A girlfriend had almost applied for me and then when they called I was just so tickled. I was just so elated, and excited, and nervous. When they picked me, I was just humbled. 

I think I did it just because I love cooking so much. I used to tell myself maybe I could do something like that someday. And this was my someday. 

Nikki Tomiano-Allemand

In your bio, I read your cooking is influenced by your Pacific Northwest upbringing and your grandparents, could you share more about these influences? 

I have multiple influences. My dad and my grandparents grew up on the East Coast in Elizabeth, New Jersey. My dad’s grandparents immigrated from Italy. My grandparents lived with me growing up, so they were in the house. And we were just a cooking family. I don’t have very many memories of really eating out. Everyone just cooked at home. My grandfather had favorite recipes that we learned how to cook. It was very hands-on. 

My mom was a single mom, pretty busy. But she gave me the gift of flavors around the Seattle area. She was always taking me to different Asian restaurants. My stepmom is a flight attendant. So we grew up traveling as well. So we would try to immerse ourselves in the culture we would visit and we would eat all their food.  

What are some of your favorite things to cook? 

I absolutely love seafood. We make cioppino all the time. I absolutely love eggplant parmesan. We do a lot of the Italian classics. But, a lot of times, we make them healthier [laughs].

I like to do a lot of Asian food. I’ve traveled to Vietnam and I just loved the food. We eat a diversity of food but I would say probably Asian and Italian are our favorites. 

When you’re in Seattle is there any food you have to have? 

When I go to Seattle, I absolutely have to go down to the Pike Place Market and get to Mee Sum Pastry and I get a hom bow. And that’s something I have done since I was a little girl. And, I passed that down to my kids as well. 

I know there’s not a lot you can say about these contests in advance but what can you tell us about the show — What was the atmosphere like?

It was such an amazing experience. We just became such fast friends and they were all just amazing humans. We all came from all over the United States, different walks of life, different backgrounds. And, we just connected so fast. I think, even in the times of COVID, our hearts genuinely needed it. I really am excited because I think this country could use that too. 

Behind the scenes, it was so fun. Long days, but so worth it. The judges and Alejandra, the host, they were incredible. Graham Elliot would pull us aside and show us the correct technique with a knife skill. Leah would say, ‘Hey, try cutting it this way to get the most juice out of it.’ Tiffany would talk about the char or the base flavor … They just really poured into us. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

The food that the contestants put forward was just absolutely phenomenal. It really made everyone step up their game. But, it’s a very uplifting competition. I love that it’s going to celebrate multiculturalism. We get to talk about the foods that have been passed down through generations to us. That’s what I’m really excited about. And, I’m excited for our country and other people to see that as well. 

Don’t miss The Great American Recipe Fridays at 9:00 p.m. 

Caroline Gerdes
About the Author

Caroline Gerdes

Caroline Gerdes is the Marketing Manager at Cascade Public Media. Before working for Cascade Public Media, Caroline was a freelance writer and she worked for National Geographic as a grantee and digital producer. She is also the author of the book, An Oral History of the New Orleans Ninth Ward.