Meet Scott Jones, Barbara Lynch’s Next Star Chef
The former scientistāand current chef de cuisine at No. 9 Parkātalks mayo, molecular gastronomy, and the next big thing in fine dining.
The Barbara Lynch Gruppo shocked the restaurant community on Tuesday with news of Kristen Kish’s departure from Menton on March 8. Taking her place will be Scott Jones, the current No. 9 Park chef de cuisine who began his culinary career less than five years ago. We caught up with Jones to discuss what’s next for Menton, how he plans on utilizing his background in science, and his distaste for the current “small plates” trend.
Congratulations on the big promotion!
Itās been a big change and one that I wasnāt expecting to happen now, but Iām really excited about the opportunity. April 4Ā will be my one-year anniversary of being chef at No. 9., which isnāt very long. Just for myself, I want to work there as chef for a year before I leave. So, Iām officially leaving after the first or second weekend in April.
Who will be filling in after Kristen Kish leaves on March 8?
Iāll be spending some time there in an unofficial way. Chef Colin [Lynch], who is the executive chef of the Gruppo, is going to take over full-time for the month in between to sort of whip it into shape.
At No. 9 Park you were flirting with the idea of making tasting menus that were customizable. Is that something youāll consider as you take over at Menton?
I hope itās something we can do there. Itās a big question Iāve been asking myself at No. 9 over the past several years. Whatās the next movement in fine dining? Where are we trying to go to provide the best opportunity for our guests?Ā Corby [Kummer]Ā came out with that enormous slap in the face to tasting menus a while ago. Letās just call it what it was. He was essentially saying, “I donāt want to eat nine courses of your menu every time I come in.ā Which is fair. At the same time, people donāt necessarily want to get stuck in a three-course app, entrĆ©e, dessert format. I think thatās why chefs have been so excited about doing small plates.
Pretty much every new restaurant that opens is doing small plates. Personally, I hate small plates. There are places that do it really well, and I love those places. But in general, I hate being told that plates are for sharing when the portion is only big enough for myself. Iām not convinced that small plates are the next thing we should be doing, especially in fine dining. Iām hoping that when I get to Menton and meet with the general manager, Meredith GallagherāIāve been a big fan of hers since she was at Craigie on Main, so Iām pumped to work with herāthat she and I can sit down and say āwhatās the next best thing for Menton?ā We want to make this one of the best restaurants in the country.
Do you think thereās something to what Corby said? Have you seen the same sort of negative feedback to tasting menus from regular diners?
No, I donāt! I think the only blowback is when people look at the menu, and they donāt want to miss out on the Ć Ā la carte menu. My response to that is “Fine, tell me what you want to eat and Iāll put them in the right order.” With that being said, I donāt want to do that. When I go to a restaurant and they have a tasting menu, I want to experience it. I understand that theyāre trying to tell me a story. Thereās an arch to every tasting. Thereās a peak. Thereās a whole experience and you should give the chef an opportunity to tell that story.
Well, if you had been able to implement those changes at No. 9, wouldnāt that tailoring have jeopardized the story you were trying to tell?
No, we were trying to build it in a way that it resembled those old choose-your-own-adventure stories, where you can flip to the next page and still feel like youāre reading a complete story. Those things were always a little goofy and somehow you always died in the end, but this was going to be different. We were going to let people design their own stories with the help of our voice. Itās something weāre still talking about. Itās still in its baby stages, but that might still be on the books. No. 9 is a restaurant thatās been around for 15 years and has been successful from day one. Itāll continue to be successful. And it will always be evolving.
Is your science background going to be playing a part in what you do at Menton?
Not in the way everyone thinks. I am not going to be using weird chemicals and things like that. That is not how I cook. I want people to understand what theyāre eating. I want to do different combinations of foods and ingredients diners might be unfamiliar with. You want to teach your guests something. So, I approach it from a professorial viewpoint. I experiment a lot with different things, like textures, without using gelatin and xanthan gum and all that bullshit thatĀ I do not wantĀ to eat. Thatās such an easy way out. I want to make food like theyāve been making it for thousands of years. Itās more difficult than doing it with chemical shortcuts. The way my background has helped me is the fact that I wasnāt 18 when I started, like so many people in restaurants. They donāt know what the hell is going on in their lives let alone the kitchen.
What are the major differences between No. 9 Park and Menton? Will those differences take you out of your comfort zone?
What I always tell people is that No. 9 is a seasonal menu with French technique and Italian sensibilities. At Menton, itās been more French in spirit. Colin [Lynch] and I just printed out all the menus from No. 9 over the past 15 years and we read them over. You could tell if the chef leaned more French or Italian. Under my time there itās been more Italian because thatās my comfort zone. I like that food. I want to eat that food. And I generally think other people want to eat that kind of food, especially nowadays. You want something with more olive oil and less butter. People donāt want to feel heavy at the end of a long meal. At Menton, the signature dish is butter soup.Ā The cuisine at Menton is going to change when I get there. Itāll be something more in line with mine. People are eating long meals, theyāre really dressed up, and theyāre in a beautiful, luxurious room, and you want them to be able to go out afterward and not feel gross. Thatās generally my goal, that they donāt feel terrible at the end of the tasting menu.
But youāre into mayo.
Ha! Yes, but thatās just olive oil emulsified. Itās still not butter. You know, Iāve been trying to figure out how my love of mayonnaise is going to fit into Menton and I donāt know yet. Iām a little worried. But Iām going to figure it out.
Was it a shock when you heard that Kristen was moving on?
It was and it wasnāt. We all knew that she has a lot of opportunities open to her right now and we didnāt want to watch her let them all pass by. I know itās been tough for her to be running a kitchen like Menton and at the same time traveling a lot. I think sheās been doing a lot more than what people realize.
Within four-and-a-half years, youāre moving onto to become chef de cuisine at one of the best restaurants in Boston. When you changed tracks from science to cooking, did you ever envision your culinary career taking off so quickly?
When I started, I had to come up with some vision of how this was all going to go down for me. I told my husband that within five years I want to become a sous chef somewhere. In 10 years I wanted to be running someone elseās kitchen. Then in 15 years I wanted to own my own restaurant. That came from reading a lot of shit that people write about being in kitchens that donāt know anything. That timeline has been adjusted, obviously.Ā I think itās going to be a lot of fun and a lot of work. But Iām looking forward to it.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/blog/2014/02/19/meet-james-scott-barbara-lynchs-next-star-chef/