Katie Harriman / Lantern reporter
Nick Dekker spends his days introducing students to theatre at Ohio State, and his mornings introducing the people of Columbus to the best breakfasts in town.
Dekker, 32, is a lecturer in OSU’s theatre department, but he’s quickly gaining recognition for his side job: reviewing restaurants on his blog, “Breakfast with Nick.” His online reviews led to columns in (614) Magazine and Food City Columbus, and a guest spot in the breakfast documentary, “Breakfast Special,” which aired on the Public Broadcasting Service in July 2010.
On Nov. 5, he will release his first book, “Breakfast with Nick: Columbus.”
Instead of choosing one of his passions, Dekker has embraced them all.
He and his wife, Beth Dekker, are co-founders of Wild Goose Creative, a non-profit arts collective in Columbus. They started the organization with a few college friends as an incubator where there are performances, art, workshops, classes and concerts almost every night. They started the arts collective around the same time they had their first son, 3-year-old Will Decker, and on Aug. 21, they welcomed their second child, Owen Samuel Dekker. Although Nick Dekker grew up loving breakfast in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., he never imagined it would become a career.
“Breakfast and food writing was nowhere in there,” Nick Dekker said. “I ate breakfast a lot, but that was it.”
Four years ago, Nick Dekker started blogging to keep track of the breakfast spots they visited.
“It started just as a hobby,” Nick Dekker said. “Part of what I do is teach history, and I’ve studied history, so I definitely had this instinct to record and preserve things.”
Nick Dekker said he realized the blog was becoming popular when people started contacting him to tell him they found it useful, or to give him suggestions of restaurants to visit. After going to almost every spot in Columbus, Nick Dekker said he figured the next step was to write a book. He teamed up with photographer Robin Oatts to complete his vision for the project. Oatts said finding new, creative ways to photograph the food was the most challenging part of the process.
“After a while you start to wonder what else you can do to make scrambled eggs look different and appetizing,” Oatts said in an email.
Oatts said the most rewarding part about making the book was eating the food, hearing the restaurant owners brag about it and watching Nick Dekker do what he loves.
“Like a lot of the owners of these restaurants, Nick genuinely enjoys all things breakfast. It was common to catch the look of a little kid in a candy store at these shoots,” Oatts said. “It will be awesome to see his project come to completion.”
“Breakfast with Nick: Columbus” includes more than 200 restaurants, sorted by location. It covers everything from greasy diners to upscale spots to farmer’s markets to breakfast trucks. Some of the restaurants are listed with a short description, while about 30 are expanded on with a more in-depth story. After talking to Buckeye Donuts’ owner, Jimmy Barouxis, Nick Dekker said he realized that the focus of the book should be more on the history of the restaurants, not just the menu.
“No one needs a book that’s 150 pages of ‘the eggs here are good, and the bacon was good, and I like the toast,'” Nick Dekker said. “It’s much more interesting to hear the history of these places.”
As a third-generation owner of Buckeye Donuts, history is especially important to Barouxis. His grandfather opened the shop in 1969, then passed it down to his son, who left it to Barouxis. Barouxis said he is grateful for the recognition.
“It feels good. It feels like maybe what I’m putting into this place I’ll get back,” Barouxis said with a tear running down his cheek. “I want to do my family right, my grandpa and my father, they’re both passed away, so I want to keep it going. That’s what they would want to see.”
Barouxis said he hopes the book will help give Columbus more of an identity as a city with great breakfast.
“I think it’s really cool that somebody is going out of their way to go to all these places, do all this work and research to showcase and highlight some places that normally wouldn’t get any attention,” Barouxis said.
With a new baby and a book release on its way, the Dekkers plan to continue their hectic pursuit of happiness, family and all things breakfast.
“We’re crazy people. We don’t do anything small,” Beth Dekker said. “Will was raised at Wild Goose. Our second son will be raised with the breakfast book as sort of his backdrop.”
Beth and Nick Dekker are anxiously awaiting the day Owen Dekker will be able to join the breakfast club.
“Owen seems to be a morning person just like his older brother and his old man. Both he and Will wake up at 7 a.m. on the dot,” Nick said. “So he’s clearly getting ready to eat scrambled eggs on toast soon.”
“Breakfast with Nick: Columbus” will be sold for $20 on breakfastwithnick.com and at local shops, including The Hills Market, The Book Loft, Katalina’s Cafe Corner and DK Diner.