Known for his cheeky brand of cooking videos and imaginative takes on comfort foods, Scotty Scott grew up interested in cooking—but he wasn’t always good at it. He begins Fix Me a Plate (Page Street Publishing, 2022) with a childhood anecdote of how his neglect of boiling ham hocks culminated with a visit from the fire department and his very disappointed father. Despite a temporary ban from the kitchen, Scott finally returned to the space with a newfound respect for the cooking process (and careful supervision from his parents).
His love for cooking followed him through college and then law school. He started a personal chef service. With the rise of social media, Scott found the ability to tap into another outlet—his creativity. He long had the urge to create but never felt drawn to drawing or music or viewed himself “as much of a writer.” Short videos and photography, however, were a different story. Scott began filming his antics in the kitchen, where he whipped up recipes—either those that he grew up loving or ideas that struck him spontaneously.
Although the recipes were practiced enough to share with an audience, Scott never took himself too seriously in his videos, interspersing his instructions with his own ideas or goofy facial expressions during the cooking process.
His debut cookbook,Fix Me a Platetranslates Scott’s signature style into a collection of straightforward recipes. Dishes range from his family favorites (spaghetti sauce), regional foods that piqued his interest (Gullah red rice), and particular meals tweaked to suit his own tastes (don’t expect any scrambled eggs in the breakfast section). To get to know the man behind the videos and the pages,TLPasked Scott to share about his home cook’s approach to recipe development and thoughts on soul food.
FIXING A PLATE WITH SCOTTY SCOTT
You write about how it wasn’t until you graduated from law school that you took cooking more seriously. What drew you in?
I grew up around it, watching my mother cook and my father on the grill. I always had an interest and a passion. When I was no longer a broke college student, I began hosting dinner parties, and I’d try cooking a bit of everything. My first job out of school gave me a per diem for meals. I’d horde the per diem throughout the week to throw dinner parties on the weekend. I was cooking a bit of everything: Stuff I’d grown up eating and stuff I was curious about.
You credit social media with the development of your cooking style. How did you realize you could make a career of it?
It was a slow process. I didn’t start with that as a goal. I had a personal chef service and thought I could use it to promote myself. There was no notion of influencers. It wasn’t until I got into it that I realized I could be true to what I wanted to be. I enjoy short films. There’s not a lot of recipe development in the video and there’s a recipe afterwards. I remind myself to keep it unique—be true to what I want to portray. I try to give as much entertainment as I can and then on the website I give the bare bones recipes. I had to make my own lane, so to speak.
What impact do you hopeFix Me a Platewill have on conventional perceptions of “soul food” and “Southern food”?
One thing I wish I’d spoken more about is: What is soul food? I was hesitant because I’m not a classically trained chef, but to me, it’s anything that uses cooking throughout the African diaspora. I don’t want soul food to be limited to ten dishes or become stagnated. I want people to embrace growth and change—like the spins I put on traditional recipes, such as the candied sweet potato gnocchi. It’s the same flavors, different textures. It’s pushing the envelope and pushing forward.
In your recipes, you talk about the pressure you felt around creating “soul food” recipes, can you elaborate on that?
When I create a recipe on my own, I don’t put anything out unless I think it’s great for public consumption. It’s different with soul food—they’re tried and true because there are generations of culture behind them. There’s a balance to it: You’ve got to make it your own while keeping it within the parameter of what that recipe is. I wanted to make sure that people perceive it as me taking it seriously.
I did research—how a dish became popular, what makes it a mainstay? I talked to family members who had experience with the recipes and use professionals who are experts in their craft. If I had the opportunity to do another cookbook, one thing that struck me was how much I enjoyed the research.
Fixing a Plate? Scott’s Take on Shrimp and Grits
Yield: 4 servings
This is my cool little take (at least I think so) on the classic shrimp and grits dish. I love this recipe because the grits, I mean the polenta, has this great crispy texture to it. I am all about texture. I think that’s why I probably don’t eat eggs, which is a story in and of itself. I mean why are those things always so saggy? Anyway, the shrimp in this recipe gets a great dose of flavor from the blackening spice, and then they’re laid atop that deliciously cheesy, buttery and crispy fried polenta. Sounds great, right?!
For the polenta:
½ teaspoon salt
½ beef bouillon cube
1 cup polenta
1 stick of butter plus two tablespoons (10 tablespoons)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
For the shrimp:
1½ pounds shrimp
1 teaspoon Blackening Spice (recipe follows)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart shrimp stock (may substitute with seafood stock)
¼ cup half-and-half
2 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
For the Blackening Seasoning:
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
Grease a 7-x-11-inch baking dish with olive oil and set aside.
Cook the Polenta: Place the 1 quart water in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add the salt and whisk in the bouillon cube until it dissolves. Whisk in the polenta and cook, stirring frequently, until the water is almost absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese and cook for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Pour the polenta into the greased baking dish and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
Using a rubber spatula, free the edges of the polenta from the dish. Place a cutting board on top of the dish and invert to remove it from the pan. Slice the polenta into strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick, and then again down the center.
Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and rub a cold stick of butter across it to grease it. Working in batches, place the polenta in the skillet and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove and place on a baking sheet in the oven while cooking the remaining batches.
Make the shrimp:To make the shrimp, season the shrimp with the Blackening Spice and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large saucepan and place over medium heat.
To the shrimp, add the onion, bell pepper, salt, pepper, cayenne, and dried thyme. Cook for 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp stock and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half, green onion, and parsley and simmer on low for 5 minutes.
While that’s simmering, add the remaining olive oil to a clean pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until they turn opaque.
Assembly:Serve by placing the shrimp over the fried polenta and then pouring the sauce over both. High five yourself.