Table 6 exec chef Scott Parker takes on "jobless layabout" Yelpers
This is part one of Lori Midson's Q&A with Scott Parker. Read the second half of that interview.
I'm hungry," says Scott Parker. Not just now, not just today, but ever since he can remember. "When I was six, I made a custard pie from a recipe out of a 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook -- or at least I tried to -- and it was terrible. I made a lot of terrible things, but I was hungry. I'm always hungry. I'm just a hungry guy. It's a simple, basic caveman instinct."
Parker, the executive chef of Table 6 since 2006, has the day off, and he's wondering where to have lunch with his wife, Deanna. "We have two kids, but today we have a sitter, and for the first time in a long time, we get to have lunch together," says the 37-year-old chef from Fort Smith, Arkansas. "I'm hungry," he sighs. "If you're full, what's the point?"
Behind him, in the basement where his office resides, jars and jars of house-preserved vegetables are lined up like dominoes on the wire shelves. When he gets up from his swivel chair to pose for a photo, he grabs one of those jars as a prop. Amazingly, he doesn't open it.
He doesn't bang on it, either -- and prior to becoming a kitchen commander, Parker played for years in a heavy-metal band, even releasing an album. But when the group's lead singer passed away from colon cancer, the musicians disbanded, and Parker, who by then had determined that he "wanted to do something more real and tangible," started playing with knives. "I saw someone chopping mushrooms in a kitchen really, really fast and thought it was really cool, so I learned how to use knives," says Parker, who went on to learn the arts of butchering and pastry, as well as the pain that comes with winning a jalapeño-eating contest. "I worked at La Coupole, now the Lobby, for a few years, and I learned a shitload -- how to butcher from a Mexican butcher, how to do pastry. And even though I was the only white boy on the line, I could kill a bunch of jalapeños, and I won a contest, which I regretted instantly."
But Parker doesn't have a lot of regrets. Having cooked in some killer kitchens in Telluride, Vail and Beaver Creek, including Grouse Mountain Grill, where he met his wife; Nantucket, where he spent a summer as an executive chef for a small restaurant; and Denver, where he worked the line at the long-gone Adega before landing at Table 6, Parker is more than content with his life. "I get to work with my hands every day," he says. "I love the freedom I have here and the people I work with, and I like the cool, fun vibe about this joint and the camaraderie."
He also likes the fact that customers can reward the staff for their efforts by buying the crew a six-pack of beer, or bowls of wine, which are available for purchase at Table 6. "If you want to cheer up the kitchen," advises Parker, "don't tell me that whatever I've just served you is the best thing you've ever had, because that's bullshit. If you like our food, buy us a six-pack. That's more of a compliment than anything else."
In the meantime, we hope you're hungry, because Parker, who doesn't mince words, dishes on everything from amateur restaurant "critics" to the possibility of a new restaurant in the following interview.