Having cooked for the President and one of the most renowned chefs in the world, as well as having cleaned up consistently at cooking competitions throughout DC, you would think that Scott Drewno would have an ego even bigger than his over six-foot frame. But when I asked him how he deals with the hectic schedule and all of the pressure that comes with such success, his answer revealed just how humble and grounded he is.
“The thing I’ve learned is that you’re only as good as the team you surround yourself with,” Drewno says. “At times it’s stressful, but it’s also a really exciting job.” When I met with Drewno, executive chef of The Source by Wolfgang Puck, he had just gotten back from a corporate retreat in Las Vegas where Wolfgang Puck had asked his various chefs to cook something he had “never seen before.” No big deal, you know, cooking for a chef who’s palate has tasted just about everything and just so happens to be your boss. “Wolfgang Puck is a visionary. He’s very smart and he’s built a great team,” Drewno says.
For Drewno, who was named chef of the year at the 2010 RAMMY’s, he was the type of person who knew he always wanted to be in the kitchen. “Did the industry find me or did I find it?” he jokes. “I really like the roller coaster. No two days are alike and it’s exciting every day. Fifteen years and it’s never felt like a day of work.”
‘Drewno making dumplings at The Source’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’
Growing up in upstate New York, he said that an appreciation for the seasonality of the ingredients was instilled in him at an early age. From there he moved to Las Vegas and worked at another Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Chinois, where he says he fell in love with Asian cuisine and particularly Chinese food. Afterwards, Drewno went on to work in New York City before arriving in DC at The Source.
“Working in New York City, the vibe is incredible,” Drewno says. However, in DC Drewno thinks that the “big city but small town feel” of DC has helped create a close-knit chef community in which there is still competition but the opportunity to inspire one another to be better chefs. “It’s about collaboration more than competition,” he says.
The same vibe carries over to The Source, where Drewno says the most rewarding part of his job is bringing his team together and creating chefs in his kitchen. There’s the challenge of keeping his team on the same page and having them follow one, unified vision, although the idea of that doesn’t seem to phase him at all.
As our conversation wound down, there was one thing Drewno said that really stood out to me. The whole food scene and these interviews easily lend themselves to geek outs and question after question about what’s trendy in food. But Drewno was quick to squash this obsession with trendifying foods. “People are always asking ‘what’s new?’ There’s nothing that tastes better than food in season,” Drewno says. “I try not to lose focus on what really tastes good and simplifying things a bit. It’s just as important what I put on the plate as what I leave off.”
Check back at 3 PM for two (!!) of Scott’s dumpling recipes. Get your chopsticks ready–these potstickers will make you shun takeout Chinese food from now on.