Eating well, spending life with people who love to love, and working hard for those same people. That is how my family is. It wasn’t an insatiable obsession for food that drove me to the hustle & bustle of the industry but rather, the almost hopelessly romantic patronage to the guests and striving everyday to give them the best that we, as a team, have. In the case of my family, it was the love & devotion to my twin brother and I, making sure that we always had food at the table. Food made with love as the cliché goes. They didn’t really make much, working 12 – 14 hours a day, but with whatever they had, we would always be their first thought. In retrospect, I never thought about how deeply embedded this kind of love would be in my everyday life, but now as an adult, it only makes sense that I naturally transitioned into the craft of hospitality as my career of choice. Ultimately, serving not only the people I cook for, but my family as well.
I hated institutionalized education like many curious & reckless teenagers and my grades suffered with this poor attitude, so much so that I almost didn’t make it out of high school. I had straight A’s in one class though; cooking class. I looked forward to going to that class everyday and I’d always hang out for a little after the period was over. I remember cutting wrestling practice for three days straight to practice for some small baking competition and getting absolutely humiliated in my front of my entire team the day I came back. “That is the stupidest reason to have missed practice! Your teammates rely on you! You have to be dependable!” said my coach. I wanted to tell him that he didn’t understand and that he was wrong, but now as a sous chef, I understand that he could not have been any more right. My cooking teacher who at the time was also someone that I deeply confided in, asked me to come to her classroom after school for a little bit one day. She said “Scott, I know you hate school. But when I watch you cook, you are always smiling and deeply in those moments!”. She recommended that I apply to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and that was a wrap. I was accepted into the only school I applied to and nothing could have prepared me for what I was getting myself into.
I originally wanted to end up on Food Network. For what I can’t remember, but as I started to understand the meaning of hospitality, the idea of a professional cook became intensely humbling. The concept of servitude in “the guest is always right”. The feeling of satisfaction and “we’ve got you”, that we are able to provide guests that come to eat at our restaurant with their hard earned money a warm, memorable experience through food & drink. The chefs at Johnson & Wales University provided me with an amazing education and an even better approach to life; you get what you put in. There, my love for education began to materialize. I was getting straight A’s, happy in class (even the ones that weren’t culinary labs!) and making life long relationships. I worked as a pasta cook at Red Sauce, serving fellow students as the only sit-down restaurant in that part of campus. For our required internships, I chose to learn under the great team at Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As my first ever professional kitchen setting, I had crazy anxiety and they were very patient with me. Showing me the ropes, the do’s and don’ts and most importantly, to always have fun while you’re cooking.
From there I moved onto a local, seasonal, hyper-sustainable restaurant in Rhode Island called Nick’s on Broadway. There, I learned what it truly takes to be a professional. To this day I still credit Chef Derek Wagner and the team I was with for my foundation. Just like Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, his style of leadership was one of mastering the basics & fundamental principles, knowing that only then would you be able to lay out the groundwork for excellence. I started off making toast (often burning toast the first month) and made my way up to lead line cook at the hottest restaurant in Providence, at times expediting parts of service on a busy 300 cover Sunday brunch as a 20 year old. Passion, ownership, accountability, responsibility, discipline, communication, honesty. These were core values that were instilled in to the team from the day you started. After two years of working with what became a family, I moved back home to Queens, New York to rekindle my flames with my real family.
Through some chefs at school, I was presented with the opportunity to cook in Paris, France, a city that I’ve always dreamed of living in. E-mails were being sent back & forth, but while this was going on of course I needed some income and ended up at a restaurant called Union Fare in Union Square, Manhattan, New York. The day of my interview I told the chef “Listen, I’ve got three months. I’ll work as hard as I can for you, but after that, I’m leaving for France.” Three months turned into eight months of waiting for France. In that span of time, I went from the line cook on sides station to sous chef. In that span of time, I also came to know three extraordinary chefs; Chef Yvan Lemoine, Chef Ryan Van Grouw, and Chef John Kim, my current chefs today. Never had I seen such chemistry between people. They are understanding of each other’s strengths & weaknesses and are humble enough to work in what feels like a perfect harmony. In this harmony, they have fun. They successfully created an environment in which everyone pushes hard for delicious food as well as laugh and enjoy each other’s company. They were presented with an amazing opportunity of their own to open a restaurant and I was compelled to follow them. Together, we opened Gitano in SoHo, Manhattan, New York. They presented me with my first full time sous chef position. It was an extremely difficult learning curve and at times I felt defeated, but along with their guidance and a desire to succeed, I was able to push through. These are chefs who love to love food, who love to love each other, and who love to love the people and this feeling of loyalty that I have for them compels me to push hard for them everyday because they will take whatever it is that comes their way for the greater good.
I reached out to my chef friend for help and when he started telling me about Pared, I couldn’t believe it. “You’re telling me I can just be a freelance cook till I find out what I want to do next? Anywhere in the city? Meet new people, make money, and just cook? You’ve got to be kidding dude.” I signed up immediately and man, talk about a blessing.
When we closed for the season, I was without a job for quite some time. Financially I was okay, but I did end up in a pinch and that is when Pared came into the picture. I reached out to my chef friend for help and when he started telling me about Pared, I couldn’t believe it. “You’re telling me I can just be a freelance cook till I find out what I want to do next? Anywhere in the city? Meet new people, make money, and just cook? You’ve got to be kidding dude.” I signed up immediately and man, talk about a blessing. Through Pared, I was able to keep myself financially stable on my own terms while meeting upwards of 150+ professionals, all with their own stories coming from different walks of life, picking up new skills along the way and making lasting relationships in a job that is, as we all know, heavily dependent on network. To this day I am still talking with professionals that I have met through Pared! A couple months later, I am back with my chefs, working on a new project, and in love with our craft more than ever. And I know if life were to throw anything crazy at me, I can still rely on Pared as a consistent option. Thank you Pared for being there when I needed help the most and cheers to all of you in the industry that work tirelessly everyday for the love of hospitality!