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About

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My name is Romney (Nani) Steele. I am a writer, cook, and food stylist (with a degree in poetics and painting). I grew up at my family’s restaurant, Nepenthe, perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea in Big Sur, CA.  My first few years (along with siblings and cousins) were in the old Trails Club cabin, above the restaurant, once owned by Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, and ever since 1947 our family home. Nepenthe’s expansive terrace was our playground, it’s guests and goings on, our window to the world.

Today my family continues to live there and run the restaurant. I live in Oakland, in a tiny little flat on a tree-lined street with two vibrant teenagers and a curious cat. We return home as often as we can.

My first book, My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur is forthcoming (Andrews McMeel) in November 2009, and features beautiful photography by Sara Remington, and design by my old friend and one time employee of Nepenthe, Lisa Berman. For further information, you can e-mail me at romneysteele@sbcglobal.net

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19 Comments

  1. Jim Exarhos says:

    Great job cousin, one day we will visit. Look forward to reading your book. The site is wonderful, all of the family will spend time looking at it. We see Nikoya on facebook often.
    Love Jim

  2. Helen Maestas (Dorado) says:

    Nani,

    It has been such a long time! I have such fond memories of you and our time at Sierra Mar. Congratulations on the new book! I can’t wait to read it.

    Much love,

    Helen Maestas (Doardo, Dorado-Gray)

    • maria johnson says:

      I have the same pyramid of cats handed down to me it was my uncles who is deceased his name was Robert E Johnson I love the pyramid of cats not only that I was born in 1971 and was very curious about the artist myself so I googled her found this but no images of pyramid of cats mine is still intact I would love to see yours and I can send you a pic of mines….

  3. Alicia Gatti Lopez says:

    Congratulations, Nani!

    Rita and I are eager to read the book and try some of the recipes. Looking forward to the old and new photos, too.

    I and my husband, Victor, have many fond memories of times in Big Sur when my sister, Rita Gatti, lived there and worked at Nepenthe. We would visit from So. California and enjoy the terrace at the restaurant. I would just glory in the chance to look at all the beautiful things in the Phoenix Shop!

    Every good wish to you and yours on the publication of this first book! What a feeling, right? So much
    effort and time, and now–a heart-filling goal achieved! Again, congratulations! And many happy
    returns to the joy of publication!

    Alicia Gatti Lopez

  4. David Buuck says:

    Hello Nani -

    Sydney, Diana Gene, and I plan to attend the launch event!

    David

  5. Sarah Marcus says:

    Hello Nani!

    Congrats on the new book! I cannot wait to read it. Lots has happened since we graced the halls of the Ferry Building working at that cheese shop. I’m so happy and excited for you.

    Big hug,

    Sarah Marcus
    Briar Rose Creamery
    Dundee, Oregon

  6. Sandina Robbins says:

    Dear Romney,

    Congratulations on the birthing of your beautiful new book! I remember you talking about your family’s restaurant when we were working on the food film & panel benefit event for the Community School of the East Bay. I saw that you’ll be featured on West Coast Live Radio. That’s wonderful!

    All praises for continued success,

    Sandina

  7. Ty Griffin says:

    Hi Romney–

    I am a regular (once a month or so) visitor to Nepenthe, where I go to meet a friend. He drives down from Carmel, I drive up from San Luis Obispo, and we enjoy the place as best as we are able–which is to say, quite a bit.

    This friend is a bit of a Dylan Thomas expert. When I sent him a review of your book, he said,

    “The book is in error about Dylan dying shortly after the visit. Dylan made four US tours, and Nepenthe would have occured on the second one (with Caitlin). He did not come to California on the third and fourth tours.”

    If there is a second edition of your book, this point should probably be corrected. Let me know if more info is needed.

    I haven’t yet read or seen your book, only the review, but hope to do so soon.

    Sincerely,

    Ty Griffin
    San Luis Obispo

  8. Maureen says:

    My friend and I had lunch at the restaurant today. She is a native of San Jose (55) who had never had the pleasure of a meal at Nepenthe. I’m glad to have been able to share the experience with her.

    As I was walking through the gift store, I wondered for a moment what it would be like to grow up there…..what a special place!

    Thank you for creating a beautiful book. I’ll cherish it and the fond memories of my visits, past, present and future.

    Thank you also for your contributions to the people of Haiti. They are in desperate need.

    Best of luck to you and your endeavors. You are truly blessed.

  9. Dee Fay says:

    Hi Nani-
    Saw your lemons on your home page. You can see my lemons on my brand new blog. The painting in progress. It will need another session or two. It is from a photo I took inside the cabin at Nepenthe at the 60th anniversary.

  10. Josh Davis says:

    Brings back fond childhood memories. You don’t happen to be related to Patrick? If so it’s been a long time. Glad to see Nepenthe still doing well.

    Josh

  11. Janene Dippel says:

    I enjoyed reading “Nepenthe, Sixty Years Ago and Counting”, taking a huge interest in your mention of Marion Seawell. She worked with my father (deceased) George Dippel in San Francisco in the 1960s and early 1970s when he was with Freeman, Mander & Gossage Advertising. I spent most of my life living in Marin but now live in Florence, Oregon. The last contact I had with Marion was probably 1975 when she so kindly gave my husband and I one of her Pyramid of Cats lithographs that she so kindly wrote a message on and signed. (Unfortunately the picture has been on our wall for so many years now that her signature has faded off.) Anyway, I would love to get in touch with her and wondered if you knew how. Phone, email, address in Mill Valley (I assume) Hoping to hear from you, Janene (or Jan) Dippel.

    Hoping to hear from you,

    • maria johnson says:

      I don’t know if you got my first comment but I have the same marion seawell pyramid of cats it was handed down to me a gift to my uncle name Robert Johnson who is deceased now I would love to see yours and I can send you a picture of minds I was curious about the artist….I love it because it was the year I was born 1971.

  12. [...] They would be author Vanessa Barrington and photographer Sara Remington. Plus pals food stylist Nani Steele and recipe whiz Molly Watson played supporting [...]

  13. James Raun-Byberg says:

    my 90 yr. aunt recently moved back to santa cruz after living in spain for the last 25 years. she showed me a photo of a print that she had to leave behind of a pyramid of cats that was given to her in san francisco in the 60′s. it has a black cat on the top and a pyramid of cats – the rest of the cats grow in size ending up with a tiger and a lion. it is an amazing litho and i looked for a print but could’nt find one. is there a print of it? she’s heartbroken that she had to leave it behind when she came back to the u.s.- do you know if there is a print available for purchase / thanks -j.

  14. James Raun-Byberg says:

    my 90 yr. aunt recently moved back to santa cruz after living in spain for the last 25 years. she showed me a photo of a print that she had to leave behind of a pyramid of cats that was given to her in san francisco in the 60′s. it has a black cat on the top and a pyramid of cats – the rest of the cats grow in size ending up with a tiger and a lion. it is an amazing litho and i looked for a print but could’nt find one. is there a print of it? she’s heartbroken that she had to leave it behind when she came back to the u.s.- do you know if there is a print available for purchase / thanks -j.

  15. cat doran says:

    Hi Romney,
    I’m a writer working on a Big Sur themed issue for C Magazine. I will be in Big Sur with a photographer Lisa Eisner Feburary 16-19 and would love to shoot you and your family as well as interview any and all of you who are available for a story. You can contact me at cat cat@speakeasy.net or phone me at (323) 559-8558. Thanks and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
    All the best,
    Cat

  16. [...] We had lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant, a Big Sur icon with a great backstory as told by Romney Steele. [...]

  17. [...] author and chef Deborah Madison—along with esteemed chef/writers John Ash, Marie Simmons, Nanni Steele and our own Denise Roa—at our semi-annual Culinary Week this [...]

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