What led you to become a chef?
It's always been easy for me. Maybe it was because my dad would teach me dishes he learned on tour in the Navy, and that was our bonding time before he left again. I remember my passion for the culinary arts exploded when we lived in Slidell, La., right across Lake Pontchartrain from NOLA. It was there that I was exposed to Great Chefs and Justin Wilson on TV -- and of course the wonderful cuisine of New Orleans. Regardless of what it was, all I know is my talent makes people happy, which in turn makes me happy.
You recently competed in a burger cook-off downtown. What was that experience like?
Competitions and caters are always stressful because I want everything perfect. We wanted to serve a top-notch product and to do that, we needed to be seen. There was a little tension when I asked to be moved from a very undesirable location, but I believe they saw past my stressful demeanor and understood. I appreciate the fact that we were allowed to move. We were able to have fun, get the OFF KILTER name out there, and sell out of our burger.
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We were all happy to tie for third, especially since we never made the Southern Beer Burger before. It was a great experience and would love to see more like it in the future.
You teach a class in backpack cooking. What is the main thing to remember when you are cooking on the trails?
The nutritional emphasis needs to focus on carbohydrates to refuel energy and protein to rebuild muscle tissue. The focus of edibles needs to center on dehydrated, freeze dried, cured and/or vacuum-sealed foods that have no time or temperature restraints.
In this case, all one really needs to be a hardcore hiking gourmet is a water purifier and a JetBoil, and they can eat well for days. For anything over a few days, it is important to get some crucifers (leafy greens) and multivitamins in the mix.
As culinary arts instructor at Jordan High School, are you finding that your students can land jobs in the local restaurant industry?
Outside of the age factor hindering some of them, my better students find employment at places like Green Island, Columbus Country Club and Valley Hospitality, and the like. I do see quite a few at chain restaurants who tell me they should have listened and paid more attention in class.
Every chef stresses knife skills and sanitation, so that is what I focus on with new students. I get a lot of feedback from chefs and owners telling me these kids are better prepared than workers that they have had for five years.
What is the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
I would say all the great outdoor activities there are in the area. We have whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, the Rails to Trails and RiverWalk bike trails, and finally there is my favorite -- flat-water kayaking on Lakes Harding and Oliver and from Rotary Park all the way down to River Bend.
I'm really excited to see what the next year or two will bring and hope the new ventures on the horizon, like all the restaurants popping up and the Phenix City food truck park, will help our economy as well.
Bio:Name: Austin Scott (aka Chef), so as not to be confused with the other 2 that live in this town
Age: 42 and feeling it
Occupation: Culinary arts instructor Jordan High School
Hometown: Navy brat (mom’s side Columbus, Dad’s side Phenix City)
Current Home: Columbus
Family: My wife, Kristine and 7 year old son, Andy, (mom, sister and extended family in the area)
Education: Attended Pacelli, 1987-90; graduated from Smiths Station High School, 1991; Attended CVCC and studied broadcast communications; Faulkner State College degree in culinary arts, 2004
Favorite Book: “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain, of course
Favorite Movie: “Star Wars” and anything Marvel (yeah, I’m a geek)
Favorite restaurant: Thai House in Columbus, Pulaski BBQ in Athens and One Eared Stag in Atlanta
Favorite Quote: “I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.” — Aunt May from Spider-Man
Favorite Song: “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” by Flogging Molly
Best Concert Attended: Harry Connick Jr. with my wife