Chef Chris Scott can tick off any number of cooking accolades. Bravo Top Chef finalist? Check. Member of the James Beard foundation and judge? Been there. Owner of the buzzworthy Butterfunk Biscuit Co. in Manhattan? Done that. He credits his maternal grandmother, “Nana” Browne, as the source of his passion in the kitchen, and a stable force after his parents’ divorce. “She was the one who generally showed me the most love when I was growing up,” says Scott of his upbringing in the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions around Coatesville, Pa. “Nana’s food was incredible, she just had ‘the touch.’”
Scott honors her memory and the rich diversity of both African-American dishes and Amish cooking in his upcoming book Homage: Recipes + Stories from an Amish Soul Food Kitchen. “Soul food is a regional thing,” explains Scott, whose ancestors were from coastal Virginia. “Back up north in my neck of the woods, you’ll have more German, Dutch and Amish influences. The flavors of my area can be described as having more ‘sweet and sour’ notes. I’m hoping that folks look at the soul of soul food. I want them to know it goes way deeper than chicken and waffles.” As Scott writes in his book, he also wanted to confront stereotypes about a Black man cooking traditional soul food. “Although I’ve discovered that no matter how good I was at cooking [European fine dining], I would still be considered ‘that black guy’ in the kitchen,” he elaborates. “Once I began to believe in myself and beyond what people thought, I knew I could cook [soul] food on a high level while celebrating the ingredients, methods and the people who have done this before me.” Nana would be proud.
Photography by Brittany Conerly