The other night, six men of a certain age walked into the restaurant Cook and Brown Public House at 959 Hope street in Providence, R.I. They all looked to be in their 50s, an assortment of working professionals, artists and academics. They had gathered for some drinks, a meal and to be together.

At the bar they caught up on one another’s lives. One man had just returned from Heidelberg, Germany. Another recently had surgery to remove some polyps. They raised their glasses and toasted the evening. It was all done as one might expect of men who had reached this point in their lives. Enjoyable but somewhat understated.

Then the plate of appetizers arrived.

“Oh my God,” the most button-upped of the group cried as he placed a smoked bluefish fritter into his mouth. He made frantic motions with his hands to get the others’ attention. “You have to try this,” he yelled.

They all dived in.

“Who did the ordering?” another shouted as he moved from the bluefish to the chicken liver pate and back again.

“I’m slurping it up,” said still another, pushing his mates aside and lifting the plate to his mouth.

“Did you just say slurp?” one of the man’s buddies asked.

“You’re damn right I did,” he gurgled, smiling as a river of horseradish sauce ran down his chin.

And so it went, just another evening at Nemo Bolin’s new restaurant, his first, opened just under a year ago. The food is that good.

Mr. Bolin is an Island boy, raised on Martha’s Vineyard, and now at 31 he is reaping the rewards of over two decades of extremely hard work. This past summer his restaurant was picked as one of the 20 best new restaurants in America by Esquire Magazine. Food and Wine Magazine nominated him for the Best New Chef of the year award. And, the envelope please, he has been nominated for the James Beard Award, the Oscar of the restaurant business, for Best New Restaurant in America. The results come out later this spring.

For a new restaurant with a young, relatively unknown chef, in, no offense, a smaller city, this type of attention is staggering. An acquaintance recently asked Mr. Bolin what sort of public relations machine he employs to get all of this national press and acclaim.

Mr. Bolin shrugged. “You’re looking at it,” he said. “It’s just me, in the basement, and my wife Jenny.

Mr. Bolin is an understated chef, nothing like the loud screamers and ego-maniacs you see on television these days. He pays attention to the food and all the other thousands of details that go into running a restaurant rather than trying to get his name out into the world. And by doing this, the world has come to him.

But his success is by no means a thing of mere luck or timing. He has been working in kitchens since the age of 14.

Mr. Bolin grew up a fisherman’s kid. “My father was a salmon fisherman in northern California, my stepfather was a charter boat captain and commercial fisherman out of Edgartown, my brother, Mohawk, is a fisherman on the Island,” he said.

But that life wasn’t for him. He was into food.

“I began by entering baked goods at the Agricultural Fair [in West Tisbury],” he said. Then, when he was just 13, his mother, Sharon Gamsby, took him to see Michael Brisson, the chef and owner of l’étoile in Edgartown.

“I told him he was too young and to come back when he was old enough,” Mr. Brisson said, still remembering the encounter vividly. “He came back the next year pretty determined.”

Mr. Bolin remembers that first summer of work as one of high intensity and an introduction into a new world and culture, and not just in the kitchen. “This was not a place we went to eat,” he said of the fine dining restaurant. “Basically, I didn’t talk that whole summer.”

Some of the others in the kitchen thought he was unspeakably shy or miserable. But Mr. Bolin was so in thrall by the experience he put pressure on himself not to only do a good job but learn everything he could.

“Michael was so nice,” he said. “And his energy and enthusiasm for the work blew me away. To be with someone who would openly say they loved their work was amazing for me as a kid.”

Mr. Brisson was equally impressed. “He was just a great kid, someone who made your life easier. He grew up with me like one of my own kids,” he said.

Mr. Bolin would end up working at l’étoile for the next decade or so, every summer during high school and college. He went away to prep school in New Jersey for his sophomore through senior years and then matriculated at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. In this parallel universe his peers were looking toward jobs at banks and law f irms in big cities. Although he loved cooking and being in kitchens, he didn’t really consider it a profession. He had been temporarily sidetracked by the world around him.

But when it came time to interview for these other types of jobs he couldn’t stomach the thought of sitting in an office. He returned to l’étoile and told Mr. Brisson he wanted to devote himself to becoming a chef.

“Why would you want to do something like that?” Mr. Brisson remembered saying. “Didn’t I prove to you that this is not what you want to do?”

According to Mr. Bolin, Mr. Brisson had used cooking as a ticket to a different way of life than the one he had grown up in. But Mr. Bolin already had that ticket, college, and didn’t have to be a chef. Unlike what one may imagine, the reality of the job is relentless 15-hour days of extremely hard work and high stress.

Mr. Bolin’s answer to this. “It has me.”

When Mr. Brisson realized his young chef was truly serious about his career choice he began taking on even more of a mentorship role. At Mr. Brisson’s suggestion, Mr. Bolin enrolled in the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Boston. He was the second youngest student, now just 21 years old, but the one with the most kitchen experience.

“I had a knife in my hands for years now,” he said. The other students, many in their mid-30s, often looked to him for guidance.

Gradually, Mr. Bolin began working his way up the Boston restaurant ladder. Initially, he knew no one in the city and began by cold calling and knocking on doors. He found a spot on the line at Locke-Ober, the old Boston standard that had been taken over by Lydia Shire. After that he moved on to No. 9 Park under the tutelage of Barbara Lynch. From there it was on to Craige Street Bistrot, a restaurant outside Harvard Square run by Tony Maws who is, in Mr. Bolin’s words, “A total fanatic about source ingredients.”

Craige Street Bistrot is quite small, just 45 feet, with a prep space in the emergency stairwell. Kitchen meetings took place in the laundry room. But it was there that Mr. Bolin began to truly embrace the idea of local ingredients and changing menus to fit not just seasonality but the daily ebb and flow of the growing season. It was also a year of 17-hour days, which Mr. Bolin describes as, “Ridiculous but awesome.”

Somehow, in his few minutes of free time he met and married Jenny Bettencourt. Eventually, the new couple needed a change. They decided on San Francisco to try and experience something totally new. Mr. Bolin found jobs in a wine store and a bakery.

At first this seems like a strange detour for a young chef on the rise. But Mr. Bolin now had an extensive kitchen resume. And although he wasn’t consciously thinking about owning his own restaurant yet, the idea of learning more about wine and bread and dessert making appealed to him. He was, in the truest sense, digging deeper into his craft by rolling up his sleeves and learning by doing.

“There’s a term in the wine business called palate fatigue,” he said. “I definitely felt it. But gradually I began to learn what I liked.”

When Mr. Bolin and his wife returned to the East Coast three years later, they decided to experience a new city and settled in Providence. Mr. Bolin wasn’t worried about work what with his now very extensive resume and list of contacts. Mrs. Bolin was pregnant. Everything looked perfect for the new couple.

But this was in late 2008. A few months later the recession hit and no one was hiring. They were now about to have a baby, out of work and no prospects looming.

“We should just open a restaurant,” Mrs. Bolin said. Mr. Bolin, emboldened by his wife’s courage while five months pregnant, nodded and got to work. Cook and Brown Public House opened on March 17, 2010, just a year after that decision.

The restaurant is going strong now, led by Mr. Bolin’s cooking and Mrs. Bolin’s administrative touch. Grandmother Sharon Gambsy also helps out by taking care of baby Omen (Nemo spelled backwards) on weekends.

The menu changes almost daily according to what is fresh and available. Local purveyors, like the Narragansett Creamery, are used as much as possible. The farmers’ market located in the park across the street is frequented in season.

Nemo Bolin is wise beyond his years in terms of his approach to his life’s journey and in his experience in the kitchen. Speaking metaphorically, his story inspires. Speaking literally, as in Oh My God, this gnocchi with shaved brussels sprouts is so good, his story is one to devour.