Nominated for James Beard Best Chef, Southwest (1996, 2002) Bob Scherner was invited to the James Beard House for the “Rising Star Chef Series” in 2002. In addition to being featured in Wine Spectator, Gourmet Magazine, Food and Wine, and USA Today, the Colorado native has worked at the prestigious Charlie Trotters in Chicago, as well as closer to home at Flagstaff House in Boulder, 221 South Oak Bistro and Allred’s Restaurant in the ski resort town of Telluride. Today, Bob Scherner is a Chef Educator at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Campus in Boulder.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
I grew up in the business as a dishwasher when I was 15. It was love at first dirty dish. Borderline crazy people, stressful beyond belief, fast paced, and OK to swear like a sailor. I fit right in. My boss at the time eventually gave me a scholarship to culinary school.
Was there a particular instructor from your own education who stands out in your memory?
Chef Ritter. The rumor was he had some connection to one of Escoffier’s sous chefs’ sous chef or something like that. He never confirmed it. The guy was hard as nails, and told me (actually screamed it) as I was throwing away some very brown lettuce, “You buy the food, you sell it!” We made lettuce soup, which was spectacular. I had really great instructors.
What do you love most about being an educator with Auguste Escoffier?
I call them “light bulb moments” that certain time a student “gets it.” You can almost see it in their eyes. It’s special to be a part of that journey. I also love to see the progression in our students. They don’t necessarily see it because they’re so wrapped up in the day to day. One day they are looking at a carrot and the biggest knife they have ever held, asking themselves, “what the heck did I just sign up for?” Then they grow into cooks who can put together 5 course meals. To see that transformation and the excitement, frustration, and pride that goes along is pretty special and an honor to be a part of.
Best piece of advice you give your students?
Be excellent. Always. Attention to detail is everything, from the quality of the food, to your station, to execution. Never settle and NEVER become complacent. Challenge yourself every day to be better than the last. Be patient and take the time to learn the craft. It is a lifelong journey. Lastly, love what you do and be humble doing it. OK one more thing-have an earth shattering attitude and be able to follow direction to the letter.
Twice nominated James Beard Best Chef (Southwest), how was your experience cooking at James Beard House?
Haha, that cracks me up! I was nominated, but never made it past the first cut. No one knew where Telluride was. I cooked twice at the Beard House, once with Charlie Trotter, which was part of the longest shift I ever worked (about 52 hours straight, the other time I was invited as “The Rising Star Chef Series”. Crazy experience. Like walking into Carnegie Hall for chefs. I was freaking out because my sous chef decided to stay up all night the night before. To this day he had no idea how close to death he was! My pastry Chef was my rock; she was 5-foot tall but moved through the kitchen like a freight train. Unbelievable individual. It was an honor to cook in a place that has so much history, so many chefs whose reputations were in the stratosphere. We rocked it! I was so proud to be a part of that group of individuals.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Ingredients!!! Technique – Balance – Driven – Serious Fun. Wait! That was six…
What was the last dish you cooked at home?
Do Thanksgiving leftovers count? Other than that, probably Rigatoni with Bolognese, seriously, people think chefs eat like kings at home, but that’s another article…