Menton’s Scott Jones: ‘I Lost Faith in What I Was Doing’

Barbara Lynch's chef de cuisine sat down at the James Beard House to discuss his unconventional path to becoming a chef.

As a part of its series “At the James Beard House,” Potluck Video and the James Beard House sat down with Menton chef de cuisine Scott Jones, who took over for Kristen Kish back in February. In the interview, Jones is candid as usual, describing his mentor, Barbara Lynch, as “the quintessential restaurateur,”  discussing the change in the food culture over the past couple years, and talking about the “crisis of faith” that led him from cancer research to staging at No. 9 Park. Here are just a few of Jones’ quotable highlights below:

On categorizing Menton: “I always describe Menton as a Boston restaurant. Some people say, ‘is it French? Is it an Italian restaurant?’ I always say ‘No! It’s a Boston restaurant.'”

On the Boston dining scene: “It used to be that there were a few people trying to do fine dining or interesting food that was attracting a large audience. A lot of people used to work for Chef Barbara, or Todd English, or Lydia Shire, or Gordon Hamersley. They’ve birthed all these people into the industry and we’ve stayed in Boston because we’ve believe in what the Boston scene is like. Food culture has also grown a lot over the last several of years with the coverage in TV and print media.”

On comparing Boston to New York: “I don’t want to say that Boston is behind New York, but New York has 15 million people while Boston has 4 million. It’s taken us a while to slowly build up enough interest to sustain those kinds of [great] restaurants.”

On his background as a scientist: “I studied cancer biology at Harvard Medical School for four years until I said, ‘this is the worst.’ It was a crisis of faith. I lost faith in what I was doing. People always say, ‘you used to study cancer, that seems way more important than food.’ I don’t think so. I eat food and it becomes a part of me. What’s more important than something that actually physically becomes a part of me?”

On his big break: “I didn’t go to culinary school. I staged at a bunch of area restaurants including No. 9 Park, one of Barbara Lynch’s restaurants. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. That kitchen was so beautifully run and the food was so beautiful. It was really hard! I was the kid watching other kids make salads.”