Chef of the Month: Scott Simpson of The Depot

Name: Chef Scott Simpson

Name of Restaurant: The Depot in Auburn, AL

Restaurant Phone Number: 334-521-5177

Where were you born and raised?

I’m a Native Californian raised in San Diego.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I come from a Spanish and Italian heritage where food really remains the fabric of our gatherings. Growing up around people who loved food and cooking was an expected part of being in our family. My mother, grandmothers and aunts were always cooking. I experienced at a young age food bringing people together in a unique way and how a great meal can last a lifetime. It was a natural result that I would strive to create those transcendental moments with every preparation.

Where did you train to become a chef?

I spent the last 20 years honing my craft to become a chef. Initially I knew I had much to learn, so I intentionally sought to work at the very best restaurants wherever I could. For me, this meant selecting even international positions, where I felt I could strengthen my skills in new cuisines. In my mind you are always learning new things. However, my formal training includes time in Florence, Italy at Guilliano Bugialli’s Professional Culinary School and at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA, where I had the privilege of training under such prestigious chefs as Rick Bayless, Michael Chiarello, and many others. And today, I have the privilege to be that place where young aspiring chefs come to learn and be trained.

What others jobs, if any, have you worked within the food industry?

I entered the business, you guessed it, at the dishwasher spot. I have worked my way up in almost every position and I’ve always had an apron and my knife bag, ready. I also have run the bar before, I even was a Food & Beverage Director at the JW Marriott in Ecuador.

Who is the most notable person you’ve ever cooked for?

I couldn’t begin to list the people I somehow miraculously have been able to cook for including three American former presidents plus multiple other international leaders. Famous celebrities and sports figures. This year I feel honored to know I have personally cooked and served Muhammad Ali and his family several times when I was a resort Chef in Phoenix, Az.

Why do you believe your current restaurant is one of the best in the state?

The Depot is striving this first year to be recognized as a world-class restaurant that consistently brings excellence and is elevating the dining scene across Alabama. By working with some of the best fisheries, farms, creameries, and distilleries in the state we provide freshest seafood available and an unparalleled dining experience. We are the first and only restaurant in the entire state of Alabama to cook our food on a custom Wood-fired “Asador” style grill. This unique cooking method adds a complexity depth and flavor to our dishes. We focus on innovative gulf-coastal cuisine served with worldly flair and celebrating Alabama within the Auburn Historic Train Depot just adds to the timeless ambiance.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I really enjoy practicing different Mixed Martial Arts, hence my alias and username on Instagram, @blackbeltkitchen. Currently I don’t have enough time, so I play a little tennis to stay active and competitive. I like a traveling, wine, a good game of chess, and of course cooking.

What’s your favorite seafood dish to serve up for yourself and your family?

I prefer very simply grilled fresh fish with just extra virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Pepper with fresh lemon. But I really love fiery foods from the Equatorial latitudes, like Jerk Shrimp, Black Pepper Crab, Fish Curry, and Red Chili Sambal Seabass, Habanero Mango Salsa over Snapper with Cilantro Rice. Foods that wake you up each bite.

If you weren’t a chef, what line of work would you pursue?

Prison ministry of some kind.

What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?

Alabama’s marine ecosystem and geographic location provide some of the most unique seafood habitats found in the United States. Offering species which range from Red Drum, flatfish like Flounder to big game fish & Amberjack, Clams, Oysters, there’s seems to be no end to what Alabama Gulf Coast is home to.

This nutrient-rich environment not only boasts some of the freshest seafood of the highest quality in the nation, but some of the best oyster farmers, fishermen, and fisheries in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s a big part of why we chose to open a Seafood restaurant, I can’t think of being a Chef anywhere and not using some of these great resources, especially just hours away from the shore.

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