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Since age nine, when little Ryan Scott played with kitchen utensils instead of toy trains and footballs, this celebrated San Francisco chef has been in love with cooking. He is best known for having undertaken a stage in Maui, Hawaii, bringing out the finest of Hawaiian cuisine which, unfortunately, most people think begins and ends with ham and pineapple pizza. He moved on to a stage with Daniel Boulud at Daniel in New York, and then with Charlie Trotter at Trotter’s in Chicago—the man has some serious kitchen chops. But Scott’s widespread fame grew with his casting in the 2007 season of “Top Chef.” Now an established chef in San Francisco, with a charity to his name and extensive work with Meals-on-Wheels and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Scott appears regularly on The Today Show, cementing his role as a major new celebrity chef—and one with a big heart.
What was the first dish you remember cooking as a child, and thinking "Hey, I kinda like this cooking business?"
I don't so much remember what I cooked but what I do remember is loving being in the kitchen. I had gotten into trouble at school when I was 11 and my parents’ punishment for me was to work in their diner - and from day one I loved every minute! I was flipping eggs and pancakes by the end of the first day and by Christmas that year, I was asking for kitchen utensils and appliances. Polynesian food is not on everyone's radar.
How did you get into it, and what is a good intro dish for folks unfamiliar with it?
I had the fortunate opportunity to move to Hawaii and stage with great chefs like Alan Wong who taught me about Polynesian cooking. Polynesian food is about letting the ingredients speak. Natural flavors melding together to fuse great flavors. There is nothing better than a well done Ahi Poke - and it is a dish that can be varied as long as you let the Ahi shine.
Walk us through the process of cooking for television.
Cooking for television is not easy at all! There angles and cues and locations and temperatures and much more. There is sometimes three to four versions of something because it has to be filmed at different times. Plus there is also the creating and testing of the recipes before the show tapes. On my show, Live Well Networks "Food Rush", it takes an entire week to put together one half hour show. A week! From concept to execution we are working hard to make good tv for the viewer. I am fortunate to have a stellar team working with me that truly cares about what we put on the air. And there are many bloopers and outtakes that will hopefully be a blooper real someday. There is a lot of laughing on set.
Any plans for a cookbook?
I do not have a cookbook out yet, but it is something I am excited to do someday. I have a great concept and all the recipes will be some of mine and my family and friends favorites. It will even have a few from my San Francisco restaurants, Market & Rye.
What is your favorite meal of your life and why?
This is a tough question because I know there are many more great meals I will have in my life. I am not going to single out a particular dish or restaurant because there have so many, but I will say that my favorite meals have always been great because I eat them with the people I love. The company you keep can make a mediocre meal fantastic.