Museum of Northwest Colorado: Former Cosgriff chef was a great hunter | CraigDailyPress.com

Museum of Northwest Colorado: Former Cosgriff chef was a great hunter

Mary Pat Dunn/For the Saturday Morning Press

Nick Nicoletto poses with his spike taken with a bow and arrow in Colorado’s first archery deer season in 1954.

Born in 1923 in Pennsylvania, young Servino Nicoletto went to cooking school soon after graduating from high school. He thoroughly enjoyed the schooling and earned an A upon completing the course. The Great Depression was just ending and work was still scarce so young Nicoletto joined the Civilian Conservation Corps where they put him in the kitchen when they learned of his culinary training. When the United States entered World War II in 1942, Nick joined the Navy.

Nick Nicoletto poses with his spike taken with a bow and arrow in Colorado's first archery deer season in 1954.

Upon learning of Nick's cooking experience for large groups of people in the CCC, the Navy bypassed his basic training and instead hustled him into the naval kitchens. Later when the ship on which he was serving came near the coast of Africa, Nick made the mistake (as he said) of volunteering for on-shore activity. Much to his chagrin he soon found himself entangled with enemy troops while he was armed only with a knife. With no basic training in his background, much less any training in use of any weapons, Nicoletto managed to survive numerous enemy encounters throughout the war.

After the war, Nick returned to the elegant world of fine dining, serving as head chef in various ritzy establishments in Pennsylvania and New York. He continued with his culinary training and was accepted into the Helvetia Culinary Association and the Chefs' Association of Pittsburg. He learned to carve ice sculptures, which would later become his "signature pieces" at the buffets held in the Cosgriff Hotel in Craig. Proud of his accomplishments, Nick would often say that he cooked in the era when cooks really did cook.

While working in Pennsylvania, Nick — who was by then a family man with young children — observed the increasing criminal and gang activity in his neighborhood. He told his wife they needed to head west where they would have a chance of raising a family in safety. In May of 1954 he accepted a job offered to him by Charles Gentry, manager of the elegant Cosgriff Hotel in Craig.

Though his chosen profession kept him indoors, Nick was an avid outdoorsman with experience in archery hunting. Shortly after his move to Craig, he took part in a special-license archery deer season. In the course of four hours, counting travel time, Nick was back in town with a nice-sized spike. His photo, with the bagged animal, was featured in the Craig Empire-Courier, stating that Nick was the first Craig archer to bag his game with a bow and arrow during a big game hunting season. That year there was a two-week archery season in the first half of October with a bag limit of one deer of either sex.

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After Nick's death in Craig this summer, his son and daughter-in-law, Jim and Janice Nicoletto, loaned the bow with its quiver of arrows that had been used by Nick, to the Museum of Northwest Colorado. They are now on display with a copy of the newspaper photo and article. Stop by the museum to see this and other new displays. The museum, located in downtown Craig, is open Monday through Saturday, and admission is free.

Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar at the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

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