Nick Nicastro brings chef skills to cyclists on the road

Nick Nicastro has parlayed his years of food-service experience with his passion for cycling into a business capable of keeping the most serious of bicycle riders happy and well-fueled on the road.

His SAG North America, AKA SAGmonkey, provides “support and guidance” for cyclists on long rides. What sets it apart from other support companies however, is the 22-foot-long “Bespoke Mobile Kitchen,” tricked out with high-end Wolf appliances and mannned by trained chefs who prepare three healthy, high-energy meals a day for athletes burning up to 7,000 calories a day.

For a cycling tour Nicastro is capable of pulling together a top-notch support team of specialists, everything from bike mechanics to certified massage therapists, nutritionista to yoga instructors. He also has access to coaches, chauffeurs and event planners. They are a team of soigneurs - the French word for caretaker - who will do whatever is is needed to pamper cyclists, allowing them to concentrate on the road and the experience of the ride.

Nicastro, 53, spends about 200 days a year traveling the country with this kichen. He also does catering and rents the kitchen out when available for special events.

Born in Queens, New York, he made his way as a young man to California, drawn to the surf scene. He found a natural calling in food service, and opened the Hard Rock Cafe in La Jolla. He also spent 10 years with The Chart House restaurants before being hired as food and beverage manager for The Four Seasons in Southern California.

He came to Healdsburg in the 1990s to raise a family; daughers Chiara, 22, who just graduated from Portland State, and Bianca, who is on the track team at Chico State Univerisity.

“At the time it was a quaint community and we just felt that it was very family oriented. And, being into food and wine, it’s a beautiful place to live,” he said of the decision to move to Healdsburg.

He opened and ran The Healdsburg Bar and Grill - HBG, for short. In 2005 he stepped away, (although it remains in the family), and started what he initially called SAGmonkey, a name suggested by his daughters.

Nicastro lives in a unique fireproof concrete house in the woods of Occidental when he’s not cycling himself or pampering fellow riders.

Who are the cyclists you typically work with?

The folks I with work with typically can ride at least 10 to 15 miles a day. We’re not a backroads service where you ride 50 miles and go to dinner and it’s more of a social thing. Most of the folks I work with are serious about cycling, either training for some race or they are ex pro-athletes. We sometimes work with professional athletes.

Where did you learn to cook?

I’ve been cooking since I was 12, growing up in New York with an Italian family and all my aunts teaching me how to make sauces. It was so much fun. I was hiding under the table as a kid with my aunts and great-grandmother cooking. While my uncles were smoking cigars and playing cards I was in the kitchen.

Who are your clients?

Sometimes I work with a team but for the most part they are retired professional cyclists. They have clients who come to them to be their cycling coach. So they look to me to put together these 100-mile-a-day tours so they can train for some event. I was just hired by Walgreens for their “Ride On for Red Nose,” two four-day professional-grade road cycling tours in April to raise money to end child poverty.

SAG North America provided professional support from our mobile kitchen for two epic routes - one on the West Coast (from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas) and one on the East Coast, (from Boston to New York City). We fed the participants and crew breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as provide daily ride nutrition. We will provide infrastructure for whoever wants to hire us. A senior couple once hired us to provide a very private five-day tour through the Wine Country. We’ll work with two or 100. Currently I’m working with 60 coaches and companies and teachers and have about 5,000 clients. We do all sorts of events. I’ve even done a birthday party.

Tell us about the kitchen.

It’s not a food truck. It’s a $100,000 commercial kitchen trailer, licensed by the state of California and the county of Sonoma. We call it the “Bespoke Mobile Kitchen.

Bespoke means custom, which allows folks to hire us to do what they want to do. We provide whatever their vision is. We have a freezer for ice cream, which is always a hit. We have a griddle for the hash browns in the morning and a grill that does fish. We have a six burner Wolf stove and an oven so we can bake brownies.

What’s the most unusual event you’ve worked?

There are too many to mention. But this month I’ve been hired by the San Francisco Exploratorium. They’re working with NASA to do a dcoumentary on the solar eclipse. So they’ve hired us to support their crew in Casper, Wyoming, for four days, feeding 45 to 50 engineers and NASA scientists. I’ll be cooking these guys breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What is one of your more high-profile clients?

I’ve worked with Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN on a TV show called “Sick Nation.” He takes 1,000 or so applicants, and trains them to do a triathlon.

These folks are treated like professional athletes. I’ve been the cook and the mechanic. I’ve also worked with Levi Leipheimer on a tour.

What kind of equipment do you have to detail out to a ride?

I have three Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, They’re big vans that seat 10 people for bike tours. We also have six trailers ranging from 12 to 40 feet. If you can imagine a seven-day bike tour with 100 people. The trailers move all the luggage and gear and bikes from hotel to hotel like a big circus that rolls down the road.

How do you set up the meals?

When the kitchen comes along we seat everyone along the way. It takes seven hours for the cyclists to ride 100 to 150 miles, but it only takes us two hours to drive to the next hotel. So we have three to four hours to set up. We’ll send someone to the store for fresh food. When we’re on the coast we get fresh strawberries, and produce along the way.

What’s on the menu on a serious ride?

A lot of roasted chicken and Indian food. Lots of curries and rice dishes and fish, especially when we’re out on the coast. We make a bazillion salads and quinoas.

For a ride we don’t really have red meat because it doesn’t digest well. Just chicken, fish and pastas. For breakfast we’ll have omelettes, porridge with steel-cut oats and all sorts of nuts and pasta with egg and pancetta.

Is it hard keeping riders fueled during the day?

They burn 4,000 to 7,000 calories a day, so each hour they have to eat something to replace the calories burned. But your body can only break down a few hundred. So we make mini sandwiches like ham, cream cheese and cranberry. We call it Ride Nutrition. We also make rice cakes - sticky rice spread on a pan a half-inch thick with sliced bananas, and nutella and another layer of rice. When they’re riding they don’t stop and have lunch. They’ll put these in their jersey pockets and eat while they’re riding.

Are you also a serious amateur athlete?

I did triathlons at very high level in San Diego back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I moved to San Diego because I wanted to surf. But I also wanted to get better in competing on my bicycle. … I have about 10 bikes, a mountain bike, a road bike and a gravel bike. All different styles for riding and all different geometrics in the frame and tire size.

How often do you ride?

I try to ride about 200 miles a week, or 600 miles a month.

Do you have a favorite place to ride?

The cycling is probably best in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah because the roads are so beautiful and the scenery is incredible. But it’s all beautiful.

What do you think about this life you’ve created?

I’m doing what I love to do and getting paid for it. It’s not a Fortune 500 company. But I love being of service and being outside. I get to ride my bike and support people.

I’m not a 9-to-5 kind of guy. I can’t sit still. When I work these tours it’s a 16-hour day. I’m up at 5 in the morning getting breakfast ready by 7. But it’s given me the opportunity to not have to work at an everyday job. I’m not into the grind. I was for along time. I wake up now and I’m excited.

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at or 707-521-5204. On Twitter @megmcconahey.

Meg McConahey

Features, The Press Democrat

Like most everyone, I love a good feature story that takes me somewhere I’ve never been or tells me something I don’t know. Where can I take you? Who in Sonoma County would you like to know better? I cover the people, places and ideas that make up Sonoma County, with general features, people profiles and home and garden, interior design and architecture stories. Hit me up with your tips, ideas and burning questions.


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