For Ohio State lecturer Nick Dekker, breakfast is much more than soggy cereal and microwaved Pop-Tarts.
“I’ve always loved breakfast ever since I was a kid,” said Dekker, who teaches an Introduction to Theatre course on OSU’s Columbus campus.
After receiving a Ph.D. in history, literature and criticism from OSU in 2007, Dekker decided to turn a lifelong passion for early morning cuisine into a blog about his local food-fueled adventures.
“It was kind of on a whim,” Dekker said of starting his blog, “Breakfast with Nick.”
The blog, which started with what Dekker called a “glorified hobby,” has made the OSU alum somewhat of a local celebrity.
In addition to writing for “Breakfast with Nick,” Dekker said he contributes articles to “Columbus Crave” magazine and frequently appears on WBNS-10TV.
Dekker and his blog were also featured in the New York Post’s May 6 article “Columbus, Ohio is a breakfast mecca,” which served as a guide to some of Columbus’ most notable breakfast spots.
With no formal culinary training or experience in the restaurant business prior to starting his blog, Dekker said “Breakfast with Nick” evolved as he continued to casually post about various Columbus-area restaurants.
“(I) started very simply posting about places (I was) going,” he said. “It was always just kind of starting from the ground up and building my experience, focusing more on what the place was like and what I ordered and what I thought of it.”
Dekker said while reviewing a restaurant for “Breakfast with Nick,” he tries to focus on the overall experience rather than the minute, critical details, in hopes that his readers will venture out to try the food for themselves.
“(I) do more of describing what (the restaurant) was like so that someone else can assess for themselves whether it is a place they would like or not,” he said.
Dekker’s blog currently features more than 200 restaurant reviews, and almost all of them focus on the restaurants’ breakfast offerings.
Although the majority of restaurants reviewed by Dekker are located in Ohio, “Breakfast with Nick” has expanded its range to feature several out-of-state reviews ranging from cafés in New York to donut shops in Oregon.
“There are some really memorable spots around Columbus and other places (I) have traveled to,” Dekker said. “I would always encounter some really interesting diner or local café, and I wanted a way to just record some thoughts on those places… to record where it was and what I had.”
Despite the expansion of the blog outside of Ohio’s state lines, Dekker said Columbus is developing its own identity as a city devoted to culinary innovation.
“I think Columbus is a city that is generally pretty friendly toward entrepreneurs… it is friendly toward people starting businesses,” Dekker said. “It is just a little more conducive to people creating unique restaurants and people finding their niche.”
The diversity of Columbus’ population also contributes to its growing reputation as a “foodie” city, Dekker said.
“A lot of that just comes from Columbus having an interesting makeup of the city and having the university here,” he said. “I think the fact that Columbus has the resources of a big city, but our cost of living is much lower than other big cities, it makes it much easier for people to create interesting restaurants and then experience them as well.”
Dekker said he appreciates the efforts of many Columbus-area restaurants to incorporate local ingredients into their breakfast offerings.
“We are a big city that is just smack dab in the middle of farmland, and there are a lot of restaurants that have picked up on that and look at a lot of the resources of not just Central Ohio, but all of Ohio and parts of the Midwest,” he said.
Leigh Nordin, a business partner at Northstar Café, said the café often incorporates local ingredients into its breakfast dishes.
“We take typical breakfast fare and use uncommonly delicious ingredients like Green Field Farm organic eggs, La Quercia prosciutto and local herbs from Jorgensen Farms,” she said in an email.
According to its website, Northstar Café currently operates three locations and has been serving Columbus for almost 10 years.
Nordin said she thinks Columbus diners’ love of food drives the creation of innovative restaurant concepts and dishes.
“It’s definitely the people of Columbus that make this such a great city for owning and operating a restaurant,” she said. “Diners here are passionate, conscientious and discerning.”
As a diner, Dekker said he enjoys the variety of restaurants Columbus has to offer, specifically some of his favorite spots near OSU’s campus.
“I know a lot of students like Hang Over Easy… I love their chicken and waffles that they serve for breakfast,” he said.
Ethyl & Tank, a coffee shop, bar and video arcade located at 19 13th Ave. and Katalina’s Café Corner, situated south of campus at 1105 Pennsylvania Ave. are also some of Dekker’s favorites.
Dekker said he hopes to continue to add to his ever-growing collection of “Breakfast with Nick” reviews and is possibly looking into adding more videos to his blog posts.
A second edition of his book, “Breakfast with Nick,” as well as a project featuring some of his son’s favorite recipes are also in the works, Dekker said.
Although eating copious amounts of eggs benedict is definitely a perk of the job, Dekker said the most rewarding aspect of writing his blog is having the opportunity to connect with the people behind the elusive swinging kitchen doors.
“There are just a lot of really great folks who are starting these restaurants and starting these food trucks and starting these breweries… people who are very passionate about what they do,” he said. “Anytime I get to help drive business to one of those small businesses and help more people discover (them), that is my favorite part of (writing the blog).”