Chef Bryan Scott remembers the moment he decided he needed to chuck it all out the window and quit his day job as a bank branch manager to launch his food truck: about a minute into his first day.
"I went to work for Bank of America as a branch manager, and on day one, I realized that I hated it and it was the worst decision I'd ever made," Scott recalls. "My first day was so bad, literally from beginning to end, just one thing after another. That day, I went home and said to myself, 'I have got to figure out my exit out of here.' That's when I started working on the food truck."
Scott's journey to his food truck, Doggie Mac's Food Truck by Chef B (@DoggieMacsFoodTruck)
back, may have begun in earnest that fateful day, but he can trace his path to the roving restaurant much further back. A 30-year veteran of the restaurant business, Scott began his cooking career right out of high school when a guidance counselor facilitated a scholarship to St. Louis Community College-Forest Park's culinary school. Food had been a passion for Scott ever since he was a little boy watching his father and grandfather cook, so it was an easy path for him to take.
Still, his introduction to the professional kitchen was anything but easy. As part of his education, Scott was given an internship at the former Adam's Mark Hotel downtown, where he found its militaristic, old-school French way of doing things not just difficult but terrifying. It wasn't uncommon for the chefs to come in at 5 a.m. and work until 2 a.m., sleeping under their desks in the kitchen's office because it was easier than going home.
"It was, 'Yes, chef,' or you got slammed into a wall," Scott recalls. "I learned a lot from those guys, but there was so much anger and vitriol in it that I am still trying to shake it out. Even my crew notices, but I tell them that this is culinary and we have standards. They tell me to relax."
Scott knew that the hotel side of the business was not for him, so after graduating, he got a job with the restaurant group behind the now-shuttered Patrick's at Westport Plaza. There, he and his chef ran the culinary operations for several of the group's properties, including Patrick's, Ozzie's and the Bevo Mill before leaving for other kitchens around town.
Scott bounced around for a bit, all the while working on his own private chef business that involved him cooking small dinners for people in their homes. He made no money doing it, but he loved that, for the first time, diners were getting to taste his food the way he wanted to do it. It gave him a taste for running his own business that he would carry with him for years.
After leaving the kitchen for the front of the house, Scott found himself managing big chains such as Chili's, Applebee's and Chipotle. At Chipotle, in particular, he learned the nuts and bolts of running a business with an emphasis on operations. Still, he did not feel he was in a position to strike out on his own, and instead, he decided to leave the industry to try his hand at a nine-to-five job at Bank of America.
"I wanted to wear a suit and a tie and leave smelling the same way that I did when I came in," Scott laughs. "I'd work bankers' hours, have weekends off. I thought it was going to be great."
It was far from great, but Scott's discontent was the push he needed to start his own full-time culinary business. He'd been intrigued by food trucks ever since having his first taste of Guerrilla Street Food and chatting up its co-owner, Joel Crespo, eight or nine years ago. Crespo graciously offered insight into the then-nascent scene, and Scott bookmarked that conversation and watched as more and more trucks opened for business. Once he realized that Bank of America was the wrong fit, he figured it was time to take his food business to the streets.
All he needed was a concept, and he got just the inspiration he needed around the time of his daughter's first birthday party. He'd been looking to put together a menu for the festivities that would appeal to both children and adults, and he decided a fun way to do that would be to combine hot dogs with his grandmother's mac and cheese recipe. It took some encouragement, but eventually the guests at the party gave in to his insistence and allowed Scott to put the mac and cheese on top of the hot dogs; they reveled in the experience. After his stepdaughter came up with the Doggie Mac's name, the rest was history.
"In October 2018 I did my first party," Scott explains. "I ended up buying Guerrilla Street Food's old truck, and it still had their [logo] on it. People were lining up at the window, trying to get some of their food, while I was setting up shop outside of the truck. I kept yelling at them to come and check me out."
It became immediately clear to Scott that food truck life would not be as easy as he had thought. On that first outing, he and his crew found themselves driving without functioning windshield wipers in mist and fog, causing them to nearly run off the road. Then there was the rebranding and repairs to the truck, followed by frozen pipes and lack of customers in the winter months.
"It was January, and it was brutal," Scott explains. "I was out there freezing in the snow and ice trying to keep my pipes from freezing. Looking back, I probably wouldn't have opened in the winter, but it was definitely an interesting way to break myself into the business."
For all the headaches, Scott can't help but love the food industry and the opportunity to finally be cooking his food, on his terms, for an audience that appreciates what he does. It's a tough gig, he admits, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I quit my job, burned all my bridges and learned many lessons along the way," Scott says. "But this business has a way of getting into you. Once you do it, you can't imagine doing anything else."
Scott recently took a break from Doggie Mac's to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage community, the importance of alone time and the one thing he thinks could make the city's thriving food truck scene even better.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
That I’m really a nice guy.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
My morning alone time. I need an hour alone each day.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Fly. I think everyone has that dream at night... right?
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
Not to sound biased, but the food truck scene is very interesting right now. You have food truck owners starting, not one, but multiple restaurants, while others are being asked to consult on other projects. It will be interesting to see what the next evolution is. Also the barbecue scene is crazy right now.
What is something missing in the local food, wine or cocktail scene that you’d like to see?
Again not to sound biased, but a food truck park. Food trucks are giving local chefs the opportunity to showcase their amazing food when they might not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise. These chefs need more exposure and a permanent location where patrons know they can find quality food trucks seven days a week. It would shine a bigger spotlight on the industry.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Gobble Stop Smokehouse — best wings and turkey ribs in town.
Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
Chef Ben Welch at the Midwestern. Big things!
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Garlic. On its own, it's a little overpowering, but add it as the main ingredient, and it just makes everything better!
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
Public speaking. It’s what I'd like to do in my second act.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your restaurant.
Sour cream. Can’t stand the stuff.
What is your after-work hangout?
My sofa! I’m exhausted after work.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Jilly's Cupcakes and the Whopper sandwich.
What would be your last meal on earth?
A soft pretzel with extra butter, an all-beef hot dog, a grape Slurpee, and I'll give an honorable mention to Gordon Ramsay's beef Wellington.
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