“I coined the phrase just for fun,” says the Coatesville native, who made it into the show’s top five.
Scott’s carefully curated blend draws from family roots that date back to mid-1800s Virginia and his upbringing in Coatesville. “Much as Black folk fled to the Northeast to escape slavery, the Amish made their way to the United States to avoid religious persecution,” Scott notes in his 2022 cookbook, Homage: Recipes and Stories From an Amish Soul Food Kitchen. “The Amish community and the Black communities may not have used ingredients the same way, but they shared the same resources. When they reached into the pantry, they came up with the same things.”
Nana, Scott’s grandmother, played a significant role in shaping his culinary success. “I grew up loving food and loving to eat,” Scott recalls. “A lot of that influence came from my grandmother. It also came from being in the area.”
After Scott left Chester County to attend Temple University, he found work in kitchens across Philadelphia, training mostly in European styles. He initially scoffed when mentors suggested he explore soul food. “I stubbornly dismissed who I was in an effort to mold myself into something I wasn’t,” he writes in his book. “No wonder I couldn’t find my own voice.”
As he struggled to find his focus, Scott remembered the photos of relatives on the walls of Nana’s Coatesville home. “I’d just walk right by them for years,” he recalls. “It wasn’t until I started to discover who I was and grow into my spirit that I wanted to know who those people were.”
When Scott’s four children came along, he felt a responsibility to pass down family recipes and traditions. Hence Homage, which earned a James Beard nomination. “I call it a love letter from my mother and grandmother through me to my kids,” he says.
The book’s Amish soul food concept shines through in recipes for crawfish hushpuppies, cheese grits with jerk pork, lemonade buttermilk fried chicken, and whoopie pies. Today, Scott is capitalizing on those recipes at Butterfunk Biscuit Co. in Harlem, New York, where he’s often seen shoveling snow for the surrounding storefronts. “That’s Nana in my ear,” he says.
And what about his hometown? “It’s always been a fantasy of mine to eventually come back home and have a little shop in Coatesville,” he says. “Maybe once my kids are grown and on their own.”