Reno Recipes blends freestyle cooking and philanthropy.
Sunday dinners at the Chapin house are a flurry of food and drink mixed with punk rock and bad jokes, then sprinkled with a healthy dash of raunchiness. Hundreds of people are invited to attend, and they do — albeit via Facebook.
Reno resident Jonathan Chapin has garnered these fans thanks to his weekly Facebook Live cooking show, Reno Recipes. The show also features co-host Nicky Roberts and local chefs cooking up a storm in Chapin’s home kitchen. About 350 to 400 people remotely attend each rambunctious event to learn new dishes and join in the fun. Another 1,000 or so watch the show after the live event.
“One of the big [benefits of] Reno Recipes is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Chapin says. “You can cook really nice food and still have a good time.”
Chapin has worked as a cook for restaurants such as West Shore Cafe & Inn and PlumpJack Cafe in Tahoe and Rubicon in San Francisco. After his stints as the owner of both The Alley music venue in Sparks and the We Ain’t Saints production company, Reno Recipes has renewed Chapin’s love of cooking — with a newfound focus on community.
The show has been his chance to teach others about food as well as raise money for and awareness of local nonprofits such as the Eddy House, a shelter for at-risk youth, and Northern Nevada HOPES, a community health center. Businesses such as Reno’s Big Horn Olive Oil, Verdi Local Distillery, and The Finnish Long Drink have sponsored shows. Local chefs, including Gabrielle Vasquez of chez louie and Liberty Food & Wine Exchange in Reno, have participated as guest hosts.
“My favorite part is taking what’s in front of me and doing something rad with it,” Chapin says. He then adds with a sly smile, “My favorite thing to eat is butter.”
Chapin did not have a smooth road to his current success. He suffered from neglect as a child and lived in foster homes and on the streets as a teen. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Chapin was struggling with an addiction and serving time in jail for two DUIs. After contemplating suicide, the pandemic brought to light that his problems didn’t compare to those of the neighbors he saw suffering from lost wages and children going hungry. He sent a plea out to the universe, he says, and it responded that he should cook for people. He took all that was left in his refrigerator and began to make and deliver meals to those who needed them.
The delivery service has morphed into a successful catering, meal-planning, and curbside pickup business. While Chapin serves his clients delectable dishes such as pistachio Parmesan-crusted halibut with mushroom risotto and tomato butter sauce, and crab-stuffed filet mignon with cranberry-braised asparagus, he still keeps his humble roots in mind.
“My story needs to be told,” Chapin says. “Because people love an underdog.”
For details and to watch the live show, visit Renorecipes.com or find Jonathan Chapin on Facebook.
Christina Nellemann learned how to make seared ahi with butter ponzu/hoisin sauce and a few new bad jokes from attending Chapin’s live show.