At the helm of Thompson Seattle’s Scout PNW is Executive Chef, Derek Simcik, who’s hung his chef’s hat all over the country from Chicago (where he earned at spot on Zagat’s 30 under 30 list) to most recently Santa Barbara. We caught a few minutes with Simcik in his kitchen, while chopping daikon radish, to find out more about what it’s like opening one of Seattle’s most anticipated restaurants of the year.
What is the most unexpected, attention-rousing dish on your menu?
The crudo with the beets and berries from our first menu iteration: it was fish with fruit–not what people think of immediately, but it became a hit right away.
What do you recommend drinking with the menu at Scout?
Personal choice is where it’s at. The food doesn’t particularly lend itself to one way or the other: you could have a gin & tonic with a first course of burrata, and then get to the main course and have an old fashioned or a sherry and be just as well off as if you ordered a classic pinot.
What ingredients are you loving this season?
Mushrooms right now: I find myself actually having to reel myself back – the selection that’s locally foraged here is like wow, I want to put them everywhere. The other thing would be duck: a lot of people come up here thinking seafood, but I’ve found myself having fun playing with local duck from a farm in Pleasantville – we get everything from their foie gras to their breast, the whole bird.
How would you describe the culinary community here in Seattle?
Close knit. Small. Everyone knows each other – which is cool, especially coming into it. Very open to new though. There are a lot of eyes on someone new like myself because they want to see what you’re bringing, but they’re open to that.
Are there any trends in the PNW that you think are overrated?
Personally, and I’m probably going to shoot myself in the foot for saying this, but being so hyper-local. It’s an international market with such an influx of people coming through and in general an incredible diverse population: Vietnamese, Norwegian… There are ingredients from all over the world that we just can’t grow here. And with the way cuisine is now and with what people are wanting, and as well traveled as so many people are… Basically what I’m saying is: you shouldn’t be afraid to put avocado on the menu if it’s in season just because it’s not grown here. Seasonality is a completely different thing from local.
What is the most exciting part of being on an opening team?
This is my eighth hotel restaurant opening, and seeing how we go from conceptual to reality is the defining aspect: prior to being in the physical space, you have so many ideas, and then you get in the space and the reality hits you of what you can and can’t do and everything is completely different. I find it entertaining.
And finally, what is your guilty pleasure dish?
Ooh god. Chili cheese fries.
Scout is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as weekend brunch – menu and reservations can be found online at scoutpnw.com.