I’m Chef and Pitmaster Rodney Scott and This Is How I Eat
A couple of years ago, Rodney Scott won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast, but as far as I can tell, he has never rested on his well-deserved laurels. With a new book coming out -And new locations from Rodney Scott Whole Hog BBQs opening in Atlanta, Georgia and Trussville and Homewood, AL this year, Charleston-based pitmaster keeps busy, so I was so excited he could take advantage of a moment to discuss the joys of light beer, his love of turkey and his very impressive collection of bourbon.
Do you like breakfast?
I like breakfast a little. I don’t eat breakfast all the time. My breakfast can be anything from a hearty poor breakfast with chicken and waffles to a bacon sandwich at a restaurant and sometimes bacon and eggs or pancakes if I’m at home. Sometimes I have breakfast. They are not always healthy, but I eat them.
Do you drink coffee?
Over the past two years, I’ve gradually started to love coffee, and maybe three years – mostly iced coffee. In winter, I eat hot chocolate from time to time, but I mostly drink iced coffee. Not all of them are always clean . One or two may have a little keg of cream. And if I’m on the highway and really crave iced coffee, I’ll probably grab one of the Chick-fil-A iced coffees. They are like a coffee-infused milkshake.
How does restaurant work affect your daily eating habits?
If I work in a restaurant, I can eat all the time. Maybe I’ll taste the pork when I pull it to see if it tastes right. It could end with a Rod’s Original sandwich where we have leather, pork and a wrapped piece of bread. It could be a piece of chicken that doesn’t look good enough to sell, or it could be a whole turkey sandwich. Sometimes it will be a turkey sandwich. I will take a piece of turkey and toss it on a flat surface with some cheese and I will turn it into a melted piece of turkey. That’s a lot of snacking.
My nutrition depends a lot on what is happening and where I am. If I’m in Birmingham, I’ll probably go to Hero Donuts and buy an iced latte or maybe a strawberry donut and lapdog sandwich on my way to work. Or, if I’m here, I may or may not have breakfast, sometimes I can hold out until lunchtime. Habits are everywhere. Sometimes it’s a decent breakfast and a decent lunch break, and often it’s more of a brunch and mid-afternoon snack and then something else for dinner before dark. I try to finish eating by 6 pm.
How has the pandemic affected the restaurant?
It was a slow start in the beginning, and travel was our biggest advantage. So you had contactless services while driving, which was great and we had a lot of orders. This helped us a lot. As for my eating habits, it kind of slowed me down to the point where I was so busy trying to figure out how to stay healthy and protect my family [and] my staff that I didn’t eat much. Basically it was sitting at home and trying to remember what you touched and how many times you washed your hands.
How are things at the restaurant now?
Everything is fine in the restaurant. Crossing the road again is still our main asset and many people feel safer. We have plenty of outdoor seating in both Charleston and Birmingham. We have studied the CDC rules as much as possible. We kept in touch with all our business partners. And our restaurant group – hello to Nick Pihakis – these guys follow all health rules and guidelines to protect our employees. So it still works pretty well thanks to all the safety rules that we try to comply with.
I know your restaurant has a lot of meat, but what kind of vegetables do you like to eat?
My favorite vegetables are green beans. I will eat sweet peas, beans, cabbage. These are my favorites.
I love butter beans. I’m from Mississippi.
Oh, so you know .
I also wanted to ask about the catfish. How do you cook catfish?
Cooking our catfish with corn flour. This is what my grandmother did. This is what I know. Here’s what I remember. The restaurant menu kind of tells about how I ate as a child – what I grew up around and what I ate. And this catfish was one of those that came every Friday. We ate fish at grandma’s house.
Do you cook a lot at home or mainly in a restaurant?
Most of the time I cook either in a restaurant or on the road. At home, I can cook one to three times a week, and I grill most of this.
What do you like to grill?
Ribeye with bone are some of my favorites. I love making grilled chicken. I love to go for ground beef and make burgers. Asparagus. This is basically what we do. And sometimes I take shrimp, put it on skewers, and we throw it into the Green Egg .
What piece of meat do you use to make hamburgers?
Chuck – Chuck 80/20. And if I’m feeling bold – haven’t done it yet – I want to go to the butcher’s and try adding ribeye there. But I have not yet asked them to do it for me.
What do you think of the sous vide trend? Have you tried sous vide?
I haven’t tried sous vide yet, but I’ve heard a lot about it. I have an old saying, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” And since I’m not familiar with the nutritional trend, I said I would leave that alone and I would just stick with what I know right now. I have not yet ventured into the sea.
Are there any recent food trends like gadgets that you love or want to try?
I am planning to buy a deep fryer. I guess I need a deep fryer just to see what it looks like, to see what it does, because I’ve heard a lot of people praise it highly. I’m curious to take one.
Do you have something special that you enjoy air roasting?
I want to air roast a turkey. I want to take a whole turkey and cut off the legs and air-fry just to get the flavor and see what it feels like. I remember a guy roasting a turkey many years ago, he told me that he would marinate his bird for about three days in the refrigerator. He seasoned it, let it marinate for two or three days, he fried it, and it felt so good.
How do you usually cook a turkey?
Last year [for Thanksgiving] we made a grated ribs cocktail and cooked it over the fire. Then we poured it over with sauce, turned it over and poured over the sauce again, and here it is. After beating, we took Rodney’s Rib Rub, sprinkled it on both sides and laid the meat side down. We wiped it off before flipping it over and wiping it off again, and once flipping it meat-side up. we just let it sit, the skin turns red a little – oh, that’s a good bird. I tell you it feels so good. Wow.
What do you love to do with turkey leftovers?
Usually sandwiches. This time I was thinking about turkey salad but not sure yet. And I think I will cook another turkey in the next weeks or two. Because I’m curious again to try something.
What do you put on your turkey sandwich?
It’s usually just turkey and I can add some sauce or some mayonnaise. I’m very simple because I like turkey so much that I just put it between two slices of bread and then I’m happy.
If you have a really good turkey, you can do it.
Yes, everything should be right now – it can’t be too dry.
Have you ever grilled pizza?
Not yet. So, about two, almost three months ago, Nick told me that the Green Egg is one of the best pizza dishes out there. And I keep saying that I’m going to make pizza with this Green Egg, but I haven’t done it yet. But he told me how to do it. And I really plan on making a Green Egg pizza.
I don’t have a grill, so I always live off the people who have grills.
You have to get it.
What advice would you give to those new to grilling?
I would recommend Weber.
Not even a Kettle, but a regular Weber Grill with high four legs.
It’s a charcoal grill, right?
Is it charcoal, or you can buy charcoal now, something with a slightly better taste. I prefer the woody piece to everything else. It’s smaller, not too expensive, and gives you the opportunity to decide if you should do it without spending a ton of money, because you can always upgrade it.
What projects would you recommend to someone really trying to get addicted to grilling? After they make the steak and burgers – what happens after that?
Yes, do the steak and burgers, and then you can get either turkey breast or whole chicken, and then you can grab a pork leg or ham – something a little thicker, just to move up quite a bit. Again, this is not too expensive, you have the opportunity to try and see how it works for you to see if you like it. And then, if you want, you can always expand to something larger and get a larger grid.
I know both Elton Brown and Meathead Goldwyn said they like to grill grilled cheese sandwiches. Have you ever tried this?
I haven’t tried it yet, but I got crazy ideas to put my cast iron on a green egg and see if I can get something out, cook it and see what it tastes like. Grilled cheese is a great start to see how much flavor you get from wood – wood smoke from embers.
What kind of cheese do you like?
To me? Cheese? Oh, I love so many cheeses. For the grilled cheese, I would probably pluck up the courage and add some hot cheddar in there. If I can get hold of provolone, I would mix it with provolone. I fell in love with gouda but haven’t done it with fried cheese yet, but that’s another thing I want to do.
Do you also love spicy cheddar in your burger?
I love spicy cheddar with hamburgers.
How do you feel about American cheese?
You know, we grew up in the countryside, that’s all we had – an American, and provolone was a plus. So I hate it, but when I got to know these other cheeses, I thought, wow, how did an American live for so long?
It’s a whole new world of cheese! I love the American cheese on the bolognese sandwich and on the grilled cheese sandwich because it melts so well.
Did you burn this nonsense a little?
Oh yes, I mean, I will eat the whole range of Bologna, but I absolutely love to fry it . What drinks do you recommend pairing with barbecue?
Wow. You know, I’ve always doubted my judgment about sales. I can tell you what I have with the barbecue. I usually drink light beer and I can pour in some bourbon. Usually, when a fire starts and I’m preparing a meal, I open my first light beer. And by the time we get to about the fourth beer – no, I’m not an alcoholic – but by the time you get to the fourth beer, I’m almost ready to sit down and eat with it. I usually eat light beer with my meals.
Do you have a brand that you like?
I drink a lot of Mich Ultra. Mich Ultra if it’s grocery beer, and if it’s local beer, it’s usually a different light beer. But Mich Ultra is what’s mostly in my fridge, either that or Coors Light.
I think a lot of people don’t realize that light beer goes better with food. In particular, if you put so much time and effort into something like a barbecue, you don’t need a drink to suppress it.
Exactly. This is me and this light beer. I have always believed that this is my friend with food.
Do you like some bourbon?
Weller is usually there. Woodford is here. I’ll probably go to Woodford first. Wow, I have a lot of bourbon at home too. I’ve had bourbon problems a couple of times. Here is Basil Hayden, there is the Rare Eagle, there is – damn it – Pritchard. There is Firefly, there is Rowens Creek. And this is only in the house, something else is hidden in the garage.
I love a good collection of bottles! Is it mainly bourbon or do you have other spirits?
There are other perfumes. We’ve got Hat Trick Gin, we’ve got some whiskey. We have Rum, Tito’s, Ciroc, Gray Goose, Malibu Rum here. You know, Crown Royal, Virgil Kaine, local bourbon here in Charleston; they have this ginger and this rye bourbon, it’s amazing.
Do you like cocktails or do you like highballs and other things?
Simple – usually on stones. I made one cocktail myself, very tasty. This is one of those in our upcoming book – the Red Pickup. It has Hat Trick gin, some rum, some ruby red grapefruit, some cranberry juice, some Campari, some lime juice, some simple syrup. I think that’s all.
What seasonings do you often use?
Ouch! Get ready to be offended by Rodney, chef! I use ketchup a lot. Tartar sauce, ketchup – most often when I use mustard, it’s usually on a hot dog, or on a bologna sandwich, or on a turkey sandwich, but these are the main ones.
What do you put ketchup on?
Mostly hot dogs and fries. It’s not that much, but I’ve seen some hot dog establishments where ketchup and burgers are frowned upon. So yeah, mostly my burgers and hot dogs. I just sometimes like ketchup in my food – not so much! It doesn’t have to be much – enough to give it a try.