Chef Rob Scott always has something cooking, whether it’s on the grill or in his head—a swirl of inspiration giving way to one of his Simply Creative culinary fetes that he shares with his eager cooking class demo devotees.
“I knew I wanted to be a chef from the time I was in the third grade, and I pretty much stuck with it the rest of my life,” said Scott, a Hampton Bays resident who teaches classes from Montauk to Mineola at libraries, schools, and other community institutions. Scott is also the author of two books, including Healthy and Sinful, which was released two years ago.
Scott learned how to cook in public technical school and he sharpened his knives in the kitchens of East End notables such as The Coast Grill and Barrister’s in Southampton, and Tully’s Harbor in Hampton Bays, and picked up tricks of the trade along the way that he used to hone his cooking skills.
“It was like a free college education,” he recalled. Scott worked as the personal chef for an affluent couple on the North Fork, before launching Simply Creative about seven years ago. The small push he needed to launch Simply Creative came in the form of a request from the Hampton Bays Public Library to provide catering service for its’ 75th Anniversary. He got some more calls after that.
“It exploded,” he said. Seven years later, his classes are booked until the 2020. He is so busy he doesn’t even have time to maintain a website or Facebook page detailing his next appearance.
Simply Creative is so popular in some areas, libraries have a waiting list. Scott often tips off his students on the locations where classes might be easier to get into. For instance, there is a little leeway at Hampton Bays, Shoreham-Wading River, Mattituck-Laurel, and Cutchogue-New Suffolk libraries. And, for those willing to travel, there’s always Sayville or Islip.
“I’m free in 2020—it’s a nice problem to have,” he said.
Truth be told, Scott has quite the following and some students physically do just that, travelling to different locations to hear his cooking sermons. Some have even paid homage to him with paintings, knitted trinkets; another snagged him a swanky skillet from an estate sale in Southampton. (It’s now one of his favorite cooking implements and part of his teaching gear.)
Scott tries to stick to a theme for his classes such as Mardi Gras, for which he whipped up Cajun meatballs with apricot barbecue sauce for appetizers, jambalaya soup, and bananas cinnamon foster; and Wok N Roll for Chinese New Year; for which he prepared Asian orzo vegetable salad with Oriental coleslaw and roasted peanuts, and barbecued chicken in lettuce cups.
He often likes to share a story about how the food is made or how it became a tradition. In March, there will be no exception, as Scott plans to mark St. Patrick’s Day by teaching students how to prepare molasses cake, Irish soda bread, and Irish soda bread muffins. Despite his Irish roots, Scott never knew the reason why bakers cut an “X” into the top of the bread; it’s something he learned on his own. The “X” is to keep the devil away.
“A lot of people think it is to let the steam out, but it’s more traditional,” he said.
With the devil aside, as the weather gets warmer, Scott plans classes with fresh berry muffins and a special menu for Cinco de Mayo. “But I also do some general ones like New York Pretzels and Brooklyn egg creams. They can be made any time of the year,” he said.
Scott will host a hands-on cooking class where students will learn how to make one dozen spring berry cream muffins at the Hampton Bays Public Library on March 27 from 6:30 to 8 PM. Students will need to bring a large bowl, medium bowl, and one muffin pan. Registration ends March 26. There is a non-refundable $7 materials fee per class due at registration. For more information about upcoming classes, check your local library for listings.