Exclusive Interview: ‘Top Chef’ Nikki Cascone Tells Us About Planning an Eco-Friendly, Green Wedding


“Top Chef” alum Nikki Cascone shares tips and ideas on planning an eco-friendly, green wedding. Nikki will marry Brad Grossman in June 2010 at a sustainable winery in New York.

Nikki Cascone and Brad Grossman

Courtesy of Nikki Cascone

This week we had the opportunity to talk with “Top Chef” alum Nikki Cascone about her upcoming wedding. Nikki is the co-owner of 24 Prince restaurant in New York and engaged to her business partner Brad Grossman.

Nikki and Brad are planning an entirely green wedding in June 2010 at Wolffer Estate Vineyards. Nikki has shared several inspiring ideas with us. Read our full interview with Nikki for some great green wedding tips, from choosing a sustainable venue and auctioning off your wedding dress to creating an organic food and drink menu.

Brad said that you started planning your wedding right after he proposed.

Yeah, I did. I never knew what went into planning a wedding. I plan major events and own a restaurant, but this is a whole different thing. This is a beast. When Brad proposed, I was on Facebook, and I changed my status. I didn’t put a note that I was engaged. I just changed my status from single to engaged. We started getting phone calls from everybody saying, ‘Why did I have to find out on Facebook?’

Did you know you wanted a green wedding right away?

Yes, that I knew. From planning events, cooking for events and live demonstrations, I definitely knew. I’m really excited about being able to do these different things. Weddings are so gluttonous, and 2008 was a year of all of our friends and family getting married. We were bombarded with weddings. All I kept saying was, ‘When I do mine I’m not going to make this big wasteful event.’ Once Brad proposed, it set everything in motion. I started a video blog on June 6, because we are getting married on June 6, 2010. I wanted it to be one year of filming the wedding planning process.

Where is the best place to get ideas and inspiration for a green wedding?

I’ve been doing a lot of research. There are a couple of green bride guides out there, and there are lots of websites like The Knot with ideas for green weddings. Because I’m in the hospitality industry, I’ve been able to take those ideas and make them my own rather than just duplicate them. There are some great resources that you can go to for inspiration.

Courtesy of Nikki Cascone

What are some of the eco-friendly things you will doing?

There have been a lot of green weddings, but I don’t think anyone has really done everything I’m doing. I plan on composting everything on site. Every little detail that I can do I’m going to do. I want everyone to see how easy it is. I spend a lot of time out on Long Island where we’re getting married, and I have a relationship with some of the farmers there. I just love the idea of being able to use them and make everything sustainable. The winery where we are getting married is sustainable as well.

Will you be sending out invitations or using recycled paper products?

We’re not sending invitations. Everything will be electronic. We have friends in that world that are helping us out. The invite will be musical. You will open it up, and it will be really graphic. That will be the RSVP as well, and there will be no save the date card. Otherwise it gets so wasteful. The wedding will be rustic with wooden table tops. I don’t want to use wasteful linens and paper products.

Have you picked out a wedding dress?

A friend of mine, Christian Siriano from “Project Runway,” is designing the dress. I either wanted to wear a recycled dress or recycle my dress if I had it made. Christian will make the dress from organic materials. Then afterwards, we are having an online auction, and we’re going to decide amongst two charities who will get the proceeds from the sale of the dress. The person who buys the dress will have to commit that they will reuse and recycle it.

Do you know what the dress will look like?

I have some ideas. Christian and I have similarities in what we like for this kind of event. It won’t be traditional at all. I want it to be a gown but very flowing and not a big ball gown. I love Rojas, and there are a couple of designers that Christian and I both love. He’s going to get a lot leeway to do his thing though.

How about the flowers?

I’m using locally grown flowers, and everything will be in season. That is commonplace for a green wedding. I’m not sure what I’ll be using yet, but now that we’ve determined it will be in June, we will work with what the winery looks like at that time of year and what is growing wildly. It’s a great time for flowers, because everything will be blooming.

What is your wedding color palette?

Gold, purple [like violet] and green. They are kind of fall colors, but the green, purple and violet together look awesome.

With your background, food must be a big priority.

1000% percent. Can you imagine people leaving my wedding and saying ‘The food sucked?’ The big problem now is deciding how to go to a caterer to say, ‘This is what we want to do.’ That’s really not going to happen, and I don’t want to be working on my wedding day. I have someone in my family who just went on his own as a caterer. I just need someone to execute what I have in mind. My staff at 24 Prince is like a family, and I’m having them all at my wedding. I can just imagine they will be getting up and saying, ‘You need to get some glasses over here’ and trying to work.

What types of food will be on the menu?

The food will be 100% local product. We’re going to do roast pig and use every part of the pig. There will be pig on a stick, and there will be a seafood bar. Everything will be in its most natural state and really fresh local organic food. We are talking about serving everything on carts like street food. One cart will be the roast suckling pig and one will be a seafood cart like you would see with a street vendor. For drinks, we will have organic beverages. We’re talking about having a cart with lavender, lime and hibiscus juice. It will all be organic mixed cocktails where you pick your liquor. There are organic liquor companies that we are establishing relationships with at 24 Prince that I’m going to use at the wedding. Brad is really into the bar side of it. He was a big event producer and he’s really good at helping with that type of thing.

Will there be a wedding cake?

There won’t be a traditional cake. I’m deciding on individual desserts. I want to have a dessert cart as well. I’m a big sweet person, but this is such a conundrum because I love poached fruits and things like that. People will be able to walk up to the cart, and it will be very refined.

What will you be giving out as favors?

We’re going to have little herb plants and seed paper that tells guests where to find their seats. One of the farmers on Long Island makes paper sheets with seeds on them. The front will say the guest’s name, and the back will say, ‘Take this home and plant it.’ Everyone will have a different herb where they sit, and the favors will all be sustainable.

Will any of the “Top Chef” alumni be coming to the wedding?

Oh, yes. It’s like you pledge a sorority, and there’s an unspoken bond between all of us alumni. We tour together and do events all over the country with chefs from other seasons, so you get really close. There will be people from Season One through Season Five. You get closer with some, especially from my season. Antonia, Stephanie, a lot of us will be there. The pressure is on even more that the food is good.

Is Brad involved with wedding planning?

We’re just in the beginning stages now. I went out and bought five books to figure out the timeline and what to do next. We made a budget, figured out what kind of food we wanted, and made all of the big decisions. Then you really start getting into the planning. A lot of the choices will come down the road with decorations and that kind of thing.

Are you working with a wedding planner?

I will be working with a wedding planner just for the day of. One of the judges from “Top Chef,” Gail Simmons, just got married, and she recommended her wedding planner. She’s phenomenal and works out of New York. I think that’s really kind of crucial to have someone orchestrating everything the day of. I’m such a control freak when it comes to events, but I need to not think about it on that day.

Can having a green wedding save money?

I think there are a lot of ways to save money. That’s why I think it’s important to put this out there. So many women want to have these big fancy weddings, and you really can do it on a budget if you’re crafty. We’re deciding whether to do things ourselves or outsource stuff right now. It’s such an overwhelming process, where it can just be easier to let someone take care of it for you. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen and heard from other brides.

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