Chef Demietriek Scott talks journey from jail to making one of city’s second line staples
You’ve probably seen Chef Demietriek Scott everywhere: outside of Saints games, second lines and even catering for events.
The distinctive smell coming from the grill on a custom trailer behind his truck brings people from far and wide, and every so often a celebrity or two.
“To have people like Alvin Kamara stopping in on the regular, saying, ‘You know why we’re here,’ speaks volumes,” said Scott.
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The reason they line up is for one of the city’s most recognizable street foods, the Origino Ghetto Burger, but the line for Scott’s food wasn’t always so long.
“I already had the idea in my head in 1991 at John F. Kennedy High School, that year teachers went on strike,” Scott said when he recalled the first time he thought about being an entrepreneur. “I never want a career where I have to worry about how I’m going to feed my family. So, I was like, ‘What is it do we need every day?’”
The journey from Shoney’s to the Super Bowl
Twenty-five years ago, Scott’s first job in the kitchen wasn’t even behind a grill. It was being a dishwasher at a Shoney’s restaurant on St. Charles Avenue.
“I started cooking because the cook didn’t come in,” Scott said. “When they threw me on the line without notice, I started learning a system, and the main thing that I can recall out of them all was making that burger. It was the bottom bun, the meat, the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, the mayonnaise and the top bread.”
Scott went on to work at Palace Restaurant, and then a major hotel downtown, when he realized how much the food industry made after a banquet where thousands of guests were served.
“I said, ‘Man, ain’t no way I’m going to stay here working for ya’ll and we made $80 and ya’ll made $400,000,” Scott recalled. “I went from working for $80 a day to selling lunch plates and selling out in three hours, making $50,000 in four months working three days a week.”
Scott put himself through culinary school, but that didn’t make the road any smoother for his journey. Over his life, Scott has been shot and even did time in jail. But with the Super Bowl coming to town, in 2012 things took a turn.
“The Superbowl sent a deposit for me to be a vendor, so that changed the game,” he said. “This guy was selling a food truck, I didn’t have any money, then a magical check appeared in my mailbox. I cashed the check and bought the food truck that I’m in now, and when I did that, I knew the food truck industry was starting to hit New Orleans, but I positioned myself to where I am today because I took chances, I took risks.”
Scott took the truck with him to second lines, watching others selling their goods along the route.
“I’m a hustler by nature, so I see everybody out there selling cold drinks, burgers,” he said. “I’d mix my own spices together and by some sauce from the store and blend it all up. When I tell you, they were going crazy over it! A dollar cold drink, dollar burger, dollar cigar, everything on the truck was a dollar. A person that has $5, they could get five burgers, they could get way more than they could get off any other truck. I’d go outside for four and a half hours with a bullhorn or just screaming real loud, and have way more than enough food to cover me. In four or five hours, I’d have $2,000 cash off selling something for a dollar. So, I can imagine if it was $5 or $6, but that was enough for me. I would out hustle everybody out there.”
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Scott’s drive has made him one of the most recognizable vendors on the route, and now that sauce is being sold in stores in the French Quarter and his online site.
“Coming from the streets, coming from the projects, coming from welfare and food stamps, it feels good that I don’t have to go back down that road again,” he said. “I had to create ‘Chef Scott’ because no one believed black guys would be the chefs. They always saw white guys as the chefs. So, I had to call myself ‘Chef Scott ‘for you to understand. When I say, ‘Hi, I’m Chef Scott, you already knew what it was I did for a living. I’m the chef, not the cook in the kitchen.”