Welcome to "Mise en Place" – a series dedicated to telling Chef stories. Mise en place is French for "putting in place", and it is what chefs do every day in the kitchen... but how did they get there? What are the experiences, tastes, and moments that put a chef in their culinary place? That's what we'll uncover together through "Mise en Place".
Meet Chef Elle Simone Scott
Elle Simone Scott is Executive Editor at America’s Test Kitchen. She is also a Food Stylist for Cook’s Country, an on-screen test cook for America’s Test Kitchen, and host of The Walk-In podcast. Elle creates media content for both America’s Test Kitchen television segments and social media. She also works to boost the diversity efforts of America’s Test Kitchen and promote a culture of inclusion with a specific focus on recruiting, mentorship, and retention.
As the founder of SheChef, Inc. and SheChef University, a non-profit & professional networking organization, Elle provides mentoring to women chefs of color pursuing culinary arts as a career.
We asked Chef Elle Simone to tell us about the experiences that have shaped her culinary style and what inspires her.
What originally brought you into the kitchen? How did you learn to cook?
My younger cousin and I were Latchkey Kids growing up, so making after-school snacks from whatever was in the fridge was our favorite thing to do. My Uncle would check in on us and teach us how to make cool things. The first thing I learned to cook was eggs/omelets.
What is your favorite cooking memory from growing up?
I think that my favorite food memory growing up was going to local Michigan farms to pick beans and collards, berries, and cherries. It gave me an early appreciation for the original farm-to-table experience. The best part was going home to cook a meal that I procured with my own hands and seeing that meal come together on the table; sharing with my family.
The cooking world is so demanding. As a Chef, what makes you feel supported in big or small ways?
I always feel most supported when my culinary community friends anticipate my needs and offer to step in to help. It’s not uncommon for a lot of us to be highly independent and not ask for help because we’re “head down” and working, so that anticipation of needs is so vital to having a healthy work-life balance. That “need” could also be to step away from work and be invited into more laid-back experiences.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring chef?
Learn how to write, develop, and test recipes. If you ever want to share your recipes, you should make sure that your recipes work as they are written. I would also encourage them to really investigate other parts of the industry to learn and enjoy at different stages of life. Ask yourself, "what does work-life look like for you in 10-20 years?".
How do you define "sustainability" in the kitchen?
Sustainability is centered around 3 pillars: environmental, economic, and social. These pillars should be the core value of all workspaces. It’s making sure the kitchen is safe (mentally, physically, and emotionally) for all. It’s making sure that those who are employed have livable & equitable compensation for time and talents delivered. And it’s a place where partnership and comradery are born and exist.
Do you have an all-time favorite meal you'd like to share?
I’m a Midwestern girl from a large family, so every meal I make is made to share! Some of my favorites are Pot Roast and Potatoes or Edna Lewis’ Chicken and Dumplings. I also love easy entertaining; I’ve become famous amongst my friends for throwing together fun, thematic boards.
In your own words, what makes an excellent knife?
I have small hands, so an excellent knife is one that I can hold comfortably, has some weight in the handle that helps me control my movements, but at the same time feels very light and can handle big jobs like roasts and larger meat cuts.
And, we have to ask, what's your favorite knife?
A sharp one! More specifically, the WÜSTHOF Performer 7" Santoku is my favorite. I also love a good boning and paring knife, for the detailed cuts.