Veteran Chef Scott Bryan chats about The Milling Room, the Upper West Side, and the Nexus of Art and Cooking
[Editor’s Note: My great thanks to good friend, photographer Evan Sung, who recently and graciously offered to help me class up the joint with photographs to accompany some interviews and articles on Toqueland. This marks our first collaboration here. -AF]
Chef Scott Bryan has been a fixture in the New York dining scene for a few decades, most prominently at Veritas, where he was the opening chef and earned three stars from the New York Times, and then at Apiary, where he cooked for the past five years. He was a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef in 1996, and has honchoed kitchens at restaurants such as Alison on Dominick Street, Luma, and Indigo. A native of Boston, Scott trained under Bob Kinkead, and worked in many great New York kitchens early in his career, including Bouley, Le Bernardin, and Gotham Bar and Grill, as well as at Joyce Goldstein’s Square One in San Francisco. Earlier this year, he was briefly the chef at Bacchanal, then joined forces with restaurateur Luis Gonzalez at The Milling Room on the Upper West Side in September. The restaurant is divided into a Tavern room and bar up front, and an enormous dining room in the back (some may remember it as the former home of Main Street, then Calle Ocho, before it became Corvo Bianco). Scott and I sat down recently to discuss how he got here, his plans for the restaurant, and related issues.
FRIEDMAN: It’s been a pretty active year for you; you left Apiary then did Bacchanal and now you’re here. How did this come about?
BRYAN: This came about because I basically worked on Bacchanal for, like, two years, talking about doing that venture … I never signed off on the kitchen there which was tiny, way too small. And so I knew it wasn’t going to work once I was there. After about a month there I called Maestro, Alfred Erlich, and I said, “This isn’t going to work; do you know anyone looking for a chef?” And he goes, “Well, this place uptown, the old Corvo Bianco space. The guy Luis [Gonzalez] is looking. They’re going to close. The chef they hired didn’t work out.” So I met with him a few times and we decided to go from there … I was sort of hesitant about taking the job up here because I never worked on the Upper West Side and I know it’s a tough place … but I said, “Fuck it. Why not?”
FRIEDMAN: What’s the reputation of this neighborhood among chefs?
BRYAN: Upper West Side is considered a wasteland….