Hands Holding Beets
Pronunciation: \shef-‘ˈēs-tə\
Function: noun
Etymology: chef + ista
(as in fashionista)
Date: 2000
1. a person who creates or promotes
and indulges in the high art form of cooking,
i.e. a sous-chef or foodie.
2. a person who cooks according
to the current cooking trends,
or one who follows those trends
and cooking styles closely.

Nikole Boyda McGuinness is the Lil’ Chefista, or should we say the Lil’ Chefista is Nikole Boyda McGuinness? Nikole was raised by her father, who didn’t have much of a flair for cooking. Although, he could make a mean scrambled egg sandwich with freshly grown tomatoes and enjoyed mastering the All American favorite, a respectable summer hot dog cooked on the grill. But mostly, the “little skinny girl” (as she was known), lived on processed foods like Dinty Moore’s Beef Stew and Campbell’s Pork n’ Beans, always hiding the bites from her plate with no knowledge that there were foods beyond the boxes and cans. At the young age of five, she discovered that there might be more to the plate while visiting her Aunties in the BIG city where the family took her out to fine restaurants and on other such culinary adventures. She was encouraged to “Just try it! If you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it. At least, try it.” …a much different attitude than what she had experienced with her father. Promptly after returning home from her first solo visit, Nikole, full of confidence from her encounters and to her father’s surprise… requested lobster when the waitress came to ask for their order at the local diner where they were “regulars.” This was only the beginning of Nikole’s journey into Gastronomica.

After trading in her Mary Jane’s for a pair of converse and a road trip out west, Nikole eventually moved to Portland, OR, where she became exposed to foods she’d never dreamed of. She ate her first bagel piled high with pesto and delighted in the cool, minty sensation that had awoken her taste buds, talking about it to no end for days, and also experienced a fantastically tasty oatmeal breakfast that came with a side of chopped hazelnuts and marionberries. “What’s this (??) hazelnuts (?) marionberries (?) on oatmeal (?) Oh my goodness… what incredible lil’ details! This is definitely different from Grandma’s oatmeal.” (a truly defining moment).

“We all need food to survive, but we should all, at some point in our lives, have the opportunity to experience truly gorgeous food that not only nourishes us physically, but also inspires us visually, emotionally, and creatively.”

—From the Introduction to Food & Art Styling Ideas
written by Ari Bendersky

Nikole later found the love of her life, a tall handsome man named John, who would eventually become her spouse. After the first few dates, she felt that it was probably time to give up the lazy bowl of cereal for dinner, and decided that she should really start to learn how to cook on her own, believing somewhere deep within her that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. But it turned out that the guy already had a few skills of his own. Good thing, too, because that lil’ skinny girl needed to survive. This was what ended up sealing the deal, as she handed over the key that led to her heart. Still determined to learn on her own, Nikole set up shop in their kitchen and began to experiment with various ingredients, fresh produce, herbs and seasonings.

Time passed while cooking, tasting, and falling deeply in love, and “Lil” found that she had even gained a few happy, healthy pounds! Life was good with experiencing truly yummy foods, and she found that she actually could, in fact, cook “beyond the can,” which made her feel quite content. John had no complaints and enjoyed their time together, as well, with their simmering culinary romance in the kitchen and beyond.

Now, several years later, the two have moved to a lil’ white-brick cottage that they called, “Le Jardin,” in Nikole’s hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, and are still madly in love. They have begun to build a home there with their menagerie of cats and dogs, a flock of chickens and a small garden where she has started to grow her own foods, herbs and flowers. The two are still nurturing and learning, expanding and experimenting together, while rarely making the same meal twice. Unbelievable, but true… They’ve even been cooking and exploring foods across the globe, visiting different countries, while seeking out even more culinary knowledge!

Her place of creation is The Creative Cottage, a space for creativity and curiosity. She is, after all, an image maker, food lover, friend gatherer, world traveler & storyteller. Her blog is where she shares these conceptions of her culinary and lifestyle adventures, whether in her own kitchen, the backyard, or abroad, in class or out in the field. She loves to review the many cookbooks that she delves into, share the recipes that she creates, and she encourages the celebration of and discourse in food, in all that it encompasses. She truly believes that food is something to be shared in its full capacity, whether in person or over the web. Food can be explored in many facets, and through all of the senses. She openly welcomes your comments and suggestions, will be happy to answer questions, and would love to share in your own unique experiences and revelations with your discoveries. And like every good chefista, she wishes for you to savor the seasons, one bite at a time.