“I live to eat!” Sarah exclaims. “Half the fun is being hungry enough to try new things.”
Sarah Scott, or “Sarita” as her coworkers call her, is El Gaucho’s newest – and youngest – Executive Chef. She was promoted last fall at just 27 years old, which makes her one of the few female chefs who has taken the reins of a prominent American steakhouse in the country.
Sarah grew up in Winter Park, Florida. In the summer, while a teenager, she worked at her mother’s architectural office as a receptionist/secretary and realized she would never be satisfied working behind a desk. Cooking was always a favorite hobby – she and her mom would frequent local farmer’s markets on Saturdays, and she recalls going to the grocery store to walk the aisles and “awe” at the new ingredients. Her mom encouraged her to experiment and cook new things, and her dad was always a happy guinea pig, gobbling up everything she created (even if it wasn’t the best, she adds). “Both my parents were always pushing me forward, and willing to go with whatever crazy food idea I had,” she says.
She studied hospitality management in college, and while there, got a job as a pantry cook and found her calling. “Within seven months, I was promoted to a line cook and became addicted to the high-stress/intense environment of the kitchen,” she says.
Once she started in the kitchen, she never looked back. Becoming Executive Chef at El Gaucho Bellevue last year is her proudest career accomplishment, although she also fondly remembers being promoted to the lead line cook at a 500 cover/night restaurant when she was just 20 years old.
Go behind the scenes with El Gaucho Bellevue Executive Chef Sarah Scott as she shares her favorite healthy recipes
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Sarah’s Insanely Easy Rustic Tomato Sauce
Butternut Squash Soup
Sarah joined the El Gaucho team in 2008 when Bellevue opened, and worked her way through every station to the top. When asked what life has been like since she’s been promoted, she laughs, “It’s a lot more hours and stress.” There is an upside, too: “I have more freedom to try new things, through specials and tweaking existing menu items for lunch, dinner and happy hour,” Sarah explains. She is especially proud of “modernizing” the Private Dining Menu, while maintaining the classic El Gaucho standard. Changes include revamping the cheese boards (“they’re impressive,” she says), adding truffle mac and cheese spoons, and burger truffle sliders. Everything has been well received.
For inspiration, Sarah loves to browse magazines and food blogs, but admits she’s “slightly sheltered” because she doesn’t own – or watch – TV. She also looks to Chicago, New York, and San Francisco for food trends: Last July she traveled to Chicago, and the first spot on her list was dining at 3-star Michelin restaurant, Alinea. “It was a mind-blowing experience,” she says. “I met the chef and got a tour of the kitchen. It opened my eyes to flavor and texture combinations. I never realized how in-depth one could go. Everything was incredible,” she exclaims.
When dining out, Sarah looks for great food with a laid back atmosphere. Harbor City in the International District for dim sum is one of her favorites. “I talk in butchered Chinese as nice as I can, smile a lot, and I’m set,” she laughs. She’s adventurous with trying new things, too: alligator, blood sausage, yak and Uni are among the most exotic foods she’s eaten. Once she made a moose stew for her family using what her uncle had brought back from a hunting trip. Is there any food she doesn’t like? “American cheese and bologna,” she says without skipping a beat. What does she like best about working at El Gaucho? “I get to work with the highest quality ingredients available,” she says.
To relax, Sarah loves visiting Redwood National Park and kicking back with a Manhattan with an extra cherry. She also loves music, and frequents local venues in her new neighborhood, Capitol Hill. “I love listening to the local flavor, whether it’s funk, indie, or rock,” she says. Sarah herself is a musician – she played bass trombone at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, admitting she almost majored in music performance. Thankfully for us and our taste buds, she didn’t!
Want to taste Sarah’s latest creation? Then head down to El Gaucho Bellevue, Monday – Friday starting at 11:30am, Saturday and Sunday starting at 5pm.