MAN OF GREAT TASTE: Chris Nilsen Found Side Passion For Coffee While At USD

Olympic Pole Vaulter showed many of the same traits that make him great on the track while working at Cafe Brule in college
Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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VERMILLION, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Clearing high bars with his pole vault came naturally to Chris Nilsen when he first arrived at USD.

Holding down a job and making coffee took work!

“He’d always been pushed a little bit towards working out all the time, going to camps and things like that, and that’s why he had never had a job before. So when he came in I had low expectations!” Cafe Brule Co-Owner Monica Iverson says.

Allissa Llewellyn started working as a server and barista at Cafe Brule in downtown Vermillion in 2018, right around the same time NIlsen was hired, and you wouldn’t have known he was in the midst of his “other” national championship career.

“He didn’t really brag too much about it when he first started. We knew a little bit about it but it wasn’t anything special.” Iverson says.

Chris’ competitive and meticulous helped brew up another passion.

“(Did he make good coffee?) All the time! He was really good at coffee art believe that or not. Really good latte maker.” Llewellyn says.

“There is a lot of businesses now that are push button and it just makes it for you. Here we do it old school.” Iverson says.

“He was very serious about making coffee. Coffee connoisseur. It was just a well balanced coffee with perfect foam on it. It wasn’t bitter, it was a nice balanced cup of coffee and it takes an art to do that.” Cafe Brule Co-Owner Jim Waters says.

So much so that Nilsen competed in, and won, several barista competitions.

“He gravitated to the more artistic barista side. He could do it quite smoothly in a very delicate pattern. It was impressive.” Iverson says.

And his friends back at Cafe Brule are eager to see what he whips up in Tokyo.

“Monica will probably have a whole shrine for Chris over in her cake decoration area!” Llewellyn says.

“We’ll have the TV on (when Nilsen competes)! We’re all going to be ignoring customers!” Iverson says.

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