Chef Chris Scott Makes Culinary Music With His Dishes.
The world is filled with incredible people in every profession and walk of life. Making a difference in their profession, community, and the world around them is the core of who they are. Chef Chris Scott uses his platform and culinary passion to make this world truly a better place. There is a culinary term “Clean as you go” that describes a chef keeping their work station neat and tidy while they prepare their dish. This is done to make life easier on the cooks around you so the station is always ready to work in. A good chef doesn’t just clean their little prep area but they will in fact clean the whole area. Chef Chris is taking the challenge of what more he can give by focusing on his community and what he can do to make positive in roads on a better world for us all. Chef Chris doesn’t just focus on his restaurants but where there is a need to be meet. His cuisine is changing what you thought you knew about soul food.
I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Chef Chris and interviewing him for this piece. I found Chef Chris to be an amazing chef during his time on Top Chef season 15. When I was doing the story on fellow Top Chef alum Chef Brother Luck he mentioned Chef Chris had prepared one of his all time favorite dishes. Chef Chris Scott’s Biscuits are apparently out of this culinary stratosphere.
As far as the best dish i’ve ever prepared, well, the late great Charlie Trotter once said that chefs are always on the quest for the perfect meal. Just when we think we made something special, we usually get bored with it, or strive to get better, so im never satisfied with the stuff i make.Chef Chris Scott
An Interview with Chef Scott
What are some of the projects your currently involved in?
I’m always juggling many things. Currently Im putting the finishing touches on my first cookbook. The title is “Homage, The life and times in an Amish Soul Food Kitchen” published by Chronicle Books. Im also about to open another place, this one is a biscuit shop located up in Harlem NY, on the campus of Columbia University. Although this will be a regular biscuit shop on the surface, what makes it unique are the actual biscuit dishes which speak volumes about Harlem, about New York City and about black culture. Many assume that Biscuits are some run of the mill regular shit, but just how Eurocentric breads can be scientific when baking, so does biscuits. As a matter of fact, breads made by ‘Brown Hands” such as Biscuits, Cornbread, Roti, Injera, and others deserve the same respect as sourdough. My biscuit shop will make sure that individuals know and understand the many intricacies that biscuits hold. I’m still teaching classes over at the Institute of Culinary Education from time to time, and doing adverts for Epicurious, Tostitos, 100 Pleats and Rassa
What things do you find interesting interesting in the culinary industry?
Things that I’m finding interesting in the culinary industry have been how the years of sidelining black and brown voices when it comes to food is going to pan out. The one thing that 2020 has taught us is how frustrated and OVER IT we are that restaurants, chefs, and the media have constantly jacked our food culture for many years. Im curious to see how things change moving forward.
What are some things people would be surprised to find out about you?
Surprised to find out about me? Not sure. I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve. Im very approachable and open so if there IS something you want to know about me, just ask… I’m really not that hard to get in touch with.
Do you have a current cause or project that you are especially passionate about?
Im pretty passionate about addiction and sobriety and mental health issues. Having been an alcoholic for many years and then to now be entering my 8th year of sobriety, I certainly can relate to the struggles. One thing that individuals don’t know is that alcohol is usually the effect to a bigger cause. For me it was lack of self confidence and the inability to believe in myself. Even with all the accolades and achievements in my life, I dont have the ability to feel joy from any of that.
What Culinary trend for 2021 do you have your eye on and why are you excited about it?
Whatever culinary trend is going to happen in 2021, more than likely it’s going to be virtual. All I can hope for is that online classes, Zoom Calls, and such get a bit more flavor and excitement involved. Speaking only for myself, going from chef to videographer, director, video producer, lighting technician, audio controller has not been easy. Although Ive been on TV many times, Ive always been the one in front of the camera. Almost never have I been behind the camera, and most certainly not part of post production. In 2020 Ive seen a LOT of bad online classes and thats mainly because of the production value of many things. I hope this year things get better with chefs who turn into videographers.
What dishes have you been preparing during the pandemic that you have elevated to new heights, Or is there a dish you fell in love with throwing the pandemic?
As far as dishes made during the pandemic, there have been a few, but mainly Ive been reading and researching breads made historically by brown hands. Ive been reading about and practicing ancient recipes from South America, Africa and the USA. Non Eurocentric breads that dont require expensive equipment, or extravagant ingredients, made the old ways in clay ovens or on planchas made of stone.
What are your favorite ingredients to work with and why?
My favorite thing to work with (these days) is flour, Salt, water…… the building blocks for bread
What is your favorite dish from your childhood?
My favorite dish from my childhood would be my grandmothers fried potatoes. This was normally a breakfast thing made alongside some scrambled eggs and such, but these were done just right. Pan griddled in a cast iron skillet with bacon fat, salt, pepper, maybe some herbs from the garden if it was in the summertime.
Who is an up-and-coming chef that we need to keep our eyes on ?
First and foremost is my old Chef de Cuisine over at Butterfunk, James Williamsson. He’s been brought up in the culture for sure so he’s familiar with the food, but he’s been putting his own remarkable spin on classic dishes. He’s worked alongside me on two occasions at the legendary James Beard Foundation and is someone to keep your eye on.
Another one, who certainly doesn’t need any introduction is Chef Omar Tate. He recently just received best Pop up Restaurant and Best Chef in the country by Esquire magazine, but to me what makes Omar unique is his spirit, not only for the food that he’s cooking, but also for the individuals doing the work in the kitchens. He also puts heavy emphasis on the historic nature of everything he’s cooking and even the things he’s not cooking. His connection between the past and the present through food, and it’s ever so precise pinpoint navigation along its lineage is downright beautiful when he talks about it. He is by far one of the leaders of black culinary culture for the years to come.
What is the most memorable dish you have ever eaten?
My wife took me to a very upscale sushi restaurant called Satsuki. It was certainly a memorable experience, but there was one ingredient that i’ve never seen before, it was a whole baby squid. the preparation and flavor was out of this world.
What is the most memorable part about being apart of Top Chef ?
The friendships I made on the show will always be special. We were truly connected for a while after the show as well. Many of us are tight with the producers, the camera folks, the production assistants. Even being out there in the Mountains of Colorado was special, everyday was like living in a picturesque postcard. The show certainly provides you with your “15 minutes of fame” but that certainly fades once the new seasons come out, or unless you’re special enough to be invited back as a judge, or a contestant. You learn to fall back into a normal life, but this time with confidence to do a little bit more with your food, that you normally wouldn’t have done before the show. Its fun while your relevance to the world matters, but nothing lasts forever and before you know it, you’re back in the basement rolling biscuits.
What other contestant on Top chef do you feel is underrated?
Although many may not have gotten sufficient ‘AIR TIME” to prove themselves to the general public, I WILL SAY that everyone on my season was incredibly talented and remarkably creative. Even off camera, back at the cast house we would cook for one another, and even talk about food on levels that go beyond regular conversation.
I hope to be asked to return at some point, although I may not have had the best food that TOP CHEF has ever seen, it does tell a story and it starts a narrative about what foods deserve a place at the global table. My personal story of perseverance and triumph can inspire. As a man of color, an older chef, a father, and someone who has lived through the blatant racism in the kitchens of the past, I can inspire. I can uplift. Im not sure if Top Chef is looking for individuals like that anymore, but every now and then, you need a “feel good” season….. Especially after all we went through in 2020
Some of Chef Chris Scott’s Dishes
More About Chef Chris Scott http://about.me/chris_scott
Links to past Chef stories below.
Chef Jeremiah James Christian
Chef Brother Luck
Chef Motavia Alston
Chef Travis Kamiyama
Chef Bert Agor Jr.