Steve Scott, owner-baker of Babettes: "Our bread is not burnt; it's well caramelized"
3350 Brighton Boulevard
This is part one of my interview with Steve Scott, owner of Babettes at the Source; part two of our conversation will run tomorrow.
Somewhere, the American queen of French cooking is smiling. And Steve Scott, the owner/baker of Babettes, which opened last year in the Source, still remembers the profound influence that Julia Child, the woman who made French cooking accessible to those who didn't know the difference between a beignet and a bisque, had on his life. "When I was growing up, I saw this Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live, where he drinks white wine and cuts his finger off -- Julia Child-style -- and when I found out that Julia actually had her own cooking series, I started watching it, and the first time I saw her doing beef Bourguignon, I knew that I had to make it," says Scott, who was born and raised in Santa Rosa, California. "That dish was the very first thing I ever cooked, and I followed every step exactly, and I have to say, it turned out amazing; it was perfect."
And then, says Scott, "I forgot about food until I was in my mid-twenties, mostly because I started professionally racing bicycles instead." But his obsession with cooking soon emerged again, leading him to a job at a small organic grocery store. Scott, who started off in the kitchen there, soon made his way to the bakery -- a transition, he remembers, that "opened up an entirely different world for me, one that I enjoyed a lot more than cooking." Cooking "was throwing things in a pan, whereas baking was more exact, and there were proven techniques that you had to adhere to, which I loved," he says.
Scott then took his baking infatuation to another level, enrolling in Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco, and it was during his time there that he became firmly entrenched in bread dough. "I was looking through a Smithsonian magazine and found an article about Poilâne, in Paris, and there was a picture of this guy -- a baker standing in front a giant brick oven who looked like hell -- and that sealed the deal for me," says Scott. "He had that look of passion -- that look of never compromising -- on his face that only years in the business puts on you, and that's when I decided specifically to become a bread baker." Even now, reflects Scott, "when things get hard and my feet are scuffing on the floor, I still think about that guy."
After solidifying his fate, he landed at Della Fattoria, a commercial bakery on a farm in Petaluma, California, where he baked bread for fifteen hours a day. And then, for family reasons, he moved to Pensacola, Florida, a jaunt that left him jaded. "I worked in some fucked-up, shitty bakeries -- places where people weren't doing stuff right -- so in my spare time, I started baking the breads that would eventually lead me to what I'm doing now," says Scott, who spent a long two years in Florida before heading to Boulder for an opportunity to become the head baker at Breadworks. "Florida was awful, but sometimes you have to eat shit before you know what caviar tastes like."
He rolled dough at Breadworks for nearly three years, departing to take a job as pastry chef at the University of Colorado, where he doled out hundreds of dozens of cookies, muffins and cakes on a daily basis. "I took the job for the money and the benefits, but I liked the fact that it forced me to think about things differently, especially what baking powder, baking soda and altitude can do to the baking process...and how not to wind up with a flat cake," says Scott.