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A Chat with Chef Scott Tycer


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Texas Forum Chat with Chef Scott Tycer

ARIES - Houston, April 4th - 8th, 2005

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We are pleased to have chef Scott Tycer, chef and owner of ARIES restaurant in Houston, join us for the week of April 4th, 2005.

The chat officially starts on Monday the 4th, but please go ahead and start posting your questions and comments for Scott in this thread now.

Scott was named one of Food and Wine's best new chefs in 2003. He is also part owner of Kraftsmen Bakery, an artisan bakery that provides fresh organic bread to his restaurant as well as others in Houston.

Scott and his restaurant manager wife, Annika, have designed ARIES Restaurant in Houston with the idea of creating an informal and sophisticated dining experience. ARIES Restaurant Menu selections, rooted in French cooking techniques, are characterized as sophisticated New American. Scott incorporates fresh Texas ingredients into contemporary dishes to create his menus. In addition to daily menu selections, ARIES offers a "Chef's Menu" consisting of five-courses featuring seasonal specialties.

Scott chose to pursue a culinary career after completing his degree in English literature at the University of Texas at Austin. He attended the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. After returning to his hometown, Houston, he took a Chef Tournant position at the then new Benjy's in Rice Village. After that he moved to the Ritz-Carlton and worked under Chef Todd Rogers. In May 1997, Scott moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. There he secured a position at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. Scott was promoted to Executive Sous Chef and became responsible for the day-to-day operations of the entire kitchen. Scott considers his time at Spago to be the defining work of his career prior to ARIES.

About Chef Scott Tycer and ARIES on the web:

http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2003-07...ning/toque.html "The In-Tycer" by Robb Walsh

http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2002-10...ning/toque.html "Bread Head" by Robb Walsh

http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2002-04...ning/toque.html "Continental Error-lines" by Robb Walsh

http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2001-03...ining/cafe.html "House of the Rising Sun" by Robb Walsh

More About Chef Scott Tycer and ARIES Restaurant in the eG Forums:

Houston Fine Dining

ARIES Thread

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Chef, thanks for joining us for this conversation.

Let me kick this off by asking Scott to elaborate a little on the "casual fine dining" concept.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised by how casual ARIES was the first time I ate there. I expected a more traditional fine white table cloth atmosphere. On my second visit I knew what to expect and it sure helped that the food on both occasions was excellent and top quality.

So, chef why did you choose this type of atmosphere? What are the advatanges and disadvantages?

Thanks,

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thank you for joining us.

Back in July of 2003, after being chosen one of the top 10 ""America's Best New Chefs 2003" By Food & Wine magazine, you told Robb Walsh

"I'm hearing about a lot of Texas chefs working in other markets who want to come home," says Tycer. "And there is room for all of them. There is room for hundreds of Aries in Houston. For chef-driven restaurants with a high level of craftsmanship, Houston is a completely untapped market."

Has there been much progress since then? Do you continue to see demand growing?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Welcome, Chef! How about a major existential question -- or two?

What do you like best about your job, and what do you like least about it?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Welcome and thanks for joining us this week, Scott.

I was reading the Robb Walsh article on your bakery and wondered how that has worked out. What breads do you use regularly at Aires? Any special breads that you have used?

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Scott chose to pursue a culinary career after completing his degree in English literature at the University of Texas at Austin

What brought about the change of direction in your life?

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Hello! I would first like to thank Egullet for allowing me the opportunity to chat with all of you. Thank you for your support and interest! I will be logging on in a few hours to answer each of your questions. Thank you again!

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Hello Chef Tycer-

I can't help but notice that you work with your wife.

Joachim Splichal and Wolfgang Puck (well he used to) work with their wives. I've worked with my wife and I enjoy it immensly. And we never get tired of eachother's company or presence.

I can already see how your restaurant can be tremendously successful.

A. You're the chef owner

B. The larger salary burden during the initial growth/return on investment period go the Chef and GM which you have covered with your wife.

C. You wholesale from your bakery.

D. Casual fine dining. Brilliant. Plenty of regulars, as well opportunities to "knock their socks off" with your special menus.

So how do you like working with your wife? :wink:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Chef, thanks for joining us for this conversation.

Let me kick this off by asking Scott to elaborate a little on the "casual fine dining" concept.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised by how casual ARIES was the first time I ate there. I expected a more traditional fine white table cloth atmosphere. On my second visit I knew what to expect and it sure helped that the food on both occasions was excellent and top quality.

So, chef why did you choose this type of atmosphere? What are the advatanges and disadvantages?

Thanks,

Elie

Location sometimes determine the level of formality that a restaurant can offer. What part of town are you in? What is the average trmperature by season. In Houston, where it is hot year round, we wanted to create a comfortable environment. Aries does not require a coat and tie and does not make you feel like you need one. The advantages of having an ambiguous level of formalkty is that you can provide value to a larger set and increase revenues. The disadvantages are all controllable costs

Edited by Scott Tycer (log)
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Hello Chef Tycer-

I can't help but notice that you work with your wife.

Joachim Splichal and Wolfgang Puck (well he used to) work with their wives. I've worked with my wife and I enjoy it immensly. And we never get tired of eachother's company or presence.

I can already see how your restaurant can be tremendously successful.

A. You're the chef owner

B. The larger salary burden during the initial growth/return on investment period go the Chef and GM which you have covered with your wife.

C. You wholesale from your bakery.

D. Casual fine dining. Brilliant. Plenty of regulars, as well opportunities to "knock their socks off" with your special menus.

So how do you like working with your wife?  :wink:

Our relationship directly benefits from our time spent together. I think that we have a wonderful friendship to structure our professional and personal growth.

Working with Annika is wonderful. :wub:

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Scott chose to pursue a culinary career after completing his degree in English literature at the University of Texas at Austin

What brought about the change of direction in your life?

I am the son of a finish carpenter. I was a craftsmen from the start. However, I believe that my success is a combination of both experiences. In cooking, we compose dishes always with the perceptions of our guest in mind. College helped me to realize cooking is not an objective medium and it can be manipulated in some interesting ways.

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Cheff Scott,

I'm a 21-year-old aspiring chef, and I believe I've had a good start up so far. For the past few months I've been looking beyond "just cooking" and have been wanting to move up to NYC and (hopefully) work with the best there. I don't need to hear about being 100% dedicated or understand the commitment involved because I'm well aware and I don't plan on doing anything else in my life besides working with chefs in great kitchens. As I see it, I want to make sure I make the move from being a cook, to REALLY becoming a chef. I'm still banging on the doors of the best restaurants in Dallas, and I'm just being patient until one of them will let me in (at least I've gotten to know the chefs, always a plus).

So, my question is more of a way of seeking advice. As you were moving forward in your career, what were some of the major obsticles you encountered and how did you overcome them? Any two cents you want to put in on the difference between being the chef and a line cook are would also be a delight to hear.

Thank you for time and your words.

Ron Lipsky

Aspiring Chef

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Chef-

We are hearing a lot recently about "avant garde" cuisine. The movement pioneered by Spain's Ferran Adria and whose effects are seen all over the globe. In the US, F&W Best New Chef Grant Achatz is doing similar things with food (See Here for a detailed discussion about the opening of his new restaurant Alinea).

Your food is very modern but it is by no means as "manipulated" as Adria's and Achatz. What are your thoughts about Avant Garde? Is it good cuisine taken to the next level or manipulation for the sake of manipulation?

Thanks again,

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thank you for joining us this week for the Q & A.

In a recent chat with Nancy Nichols, food and travel editor for D Magazine, there was a great deal of discussion concerning the place of the critic in dining -primarily this discussion revolved around the importance of anonymity to a critic and how being well known by chefs affected not only the chef's behavior and ultimately the meal that is served, but also how it might possibly affect the review.

1) Are you and your staff constantly on the lookout for critics

2) When critics are recognized, do you give them different service than a "regular joe"? Perhaps without even realizing it?

3) How important is critical acclaim to you? In other words, would you rather have a room regularly filled night after night or wildly enthusiastic reviews in national magazines?

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Scott... several questions for you, please. Having eaten in your restaurant, I note that your style is not that close to that of Wolfgang Puck, who you worked for... and that's good... each chef should have his/her own style. To illustrate the point, a friend of mine commented that your cooking was the closest thing in Houston to Alice Water's cooking, rather than comparing you with Puck. Carl Walker, at Brennan's Houston used to work for Emeril as his sous chef at Commander's Palace in NOLA. Carl's style is, in my opinion, a little more refined and regimented that of his mentor, Emeril.

What did you take from Wolfgang Puck's operation that you benefit from at Aries and where do you feel you are very different?

And.... lastly, how's the bakery doing? I was at your "grand opening" party in your bakery off of Washington Avenue and thought highly of your breads... and have also eaten it at Tony's and La Griglia.

Jack Tyler

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Thank you for joining us.

Back in July of 2003, after being chosen one of the top 10 ""America's Best New Chefs 2003" By Food & Wine magazine, you told Robb Walsh

"I'm hearing about a lot of Texas chefs working in other markets who want to come home," says Tycer. "And there is room for all of them. There is room for hundreds of Aries in Houston. For chef-driven restaurants with a high level of craftsmanship, Houston is a completely untapped market."

Has there been much progress since then? Do you continue to see demand growing?

Bank and Bistro Moderne are significant restaurants in Houston. T'afia has done extremely well in this market as well. I still get a lot of interest from culinary students from out of state and I do see the demand growing in Houston.

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Welcome and thanks for joining us this week, Scott.

I was reading the Robb Walsh article on your bakery and wondered how that has worked out. What breads do you use regularly at Aires? Any special breads that you have used?

The Bakery has done quite well since the interview with Rob Walsh. Aries uses Kraftsmen regularly. I showcase the mainstays of Kraftsmens production. We use the sourdoughs and lean italians as well the fruit and nut breads. We sell kraftsmen on its execution of the most commonly consumed artisinal breads.

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I understand you have a new restaurant opening in a few months. Can you tell us more about it and how it will be similar to and different than Aires?

Tha t is a great question. Gravitas is the name of the new restaurant and like aries, it is in an old building. The style of food will be similar in proteins but different techniques and presentation. The feel of the restaurant will be Modern American bistro.

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Hi Scott, thank you so much for joining this forum!

I met you once, you did a cooking demo at the Midtown Farmer's Market in the kitchen of T'afia. Which leads me to my question... how frequently are you able to collaborate with your colleagues in Houston? Or is the market too competitive to allow that?

Also wanted to offer my compliments for Kraftsmen Bakery - it's my husband's and my favorite sandwich place in Houston!

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Chef-

We are hearing a lot recently about "avant garde" cuisine. The movement pioneered by Spain's Ferran Adria and whose effects are seen all over the globe. In the US, F&W Best New Chef Grant Achatz is doing similar things with food (See Here for a detailed discussion about the opening of his new restaurant Alinea).

Your food is very modern but it is by no means as "manipulated" as Adria's and Achatz. What are your thoughts about Avant Garde? Is it good cuisine taken to the next level or manipulation for the sake of manipulation?

Thanks again,

Elie

I believe that there is an element of art in all cooking. By definition, art is self-serving, a representation of something you create. So, the more art you put into the cooking, the more manipulation you are engaging in. Aside from the important scientific knowledge that Ferran Adria puts into his cuisine, there is also a lot of art and manipulation involved. My food remains simple and adheres to the notion that we eat to provide nutrients for our bodies and also to provide a great experience and the manipulation is not something that I choose to exaggerate.

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Hi Scott, thank you so much for joining this forum! 

I met you once, you did a cooking demo at the Midtown Farmer's Market in the kitchen of T'afia. Which leads me to my question... how frequently are you able to collaborate with your colleagues in Houston?  Or is the market too competitive to allow that?

Also wanted to offer my compliments for Kraftsmen Bakery - it's my husband's and my favorite sandwich place in Houston!

Thank you for the compliments. As for the market in Houston, there is an amazing collaborative effort between all of us. For example, we recently had a great collaboration on a Tsunami Fundraising Event to Benefit Save The Children. The event was held at Aries with chefs Monica Pope, Phillipe Schmit, Charles Clarke, Laura Hamilton, Robert Del Grande and myself. We got together for a great cause and raised over $17,500 for the charity. I also collaborate with many chefs through Kraftsmen, and the processes involved in great artisnal bread baking.

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