In the kitchen with Chef Jason Scholz

By:Gwen Fowler


South Carolina Chef Jason Scholz of High ​Cotton in Charleston
Chef Jason Scholz of High ​Cotton in Charleston

Jason Scholz and his wife, Julia Scholz, opened Stella’s Southern Bistro in Simpsonville in August 2008. After working in Louisville, Ky., restaurants, Jason moved to Charleston where he joined Maverick Southern Kitchens at Slightly North of Broad, later becoming sous chef. He became executive chef at High Cotton when it opened in 1999.

Q: Describe your restaurant and the kind of food you serve.
Stella’s strives to connect with local and regional sources for our inspiration. “Farm to Table” seems to be the hot thing, but I’ve always taken that approach. We’re in the South, I’ve cooked in Charleston and Louisville, Ky., so I try to work those elements in to the restaurant.

Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
It’s a constantly changing list. Daniel Parson, a local farmer, continues to amaze me with his artisan vegetables. He brought some arugula in the other day that was flawless. Also inspiring: anything that comes from South and North Carolina’s coastal waters.

Q. What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Definitely my mother, Nancy. She ran a catering company, and starting at about 12 years old she utilized my free labor! After that, I just tried to work at the best restaurant in whatever city I was in until I got my own shot.

Q: Which cookbook (if any) has had the biggest impact on you?
I don’t cook like him at all, but I’ve always found inspiration from all Charlie Trotter’s cookbooks. I have always enjoyed Frank Stitt’s books because he cooks Southern cuisine with classical French and Italian influences using local and regional ingredients.

Q: What tools would you suggest every home cook invest in?
That list could get long and expensive quickly, but a few musts are good knives, pots and pans, a stand mixer and a food processor.

Q: What music plays in your restaurant kitchen?
We don’t listen to any music in the kitchen; I think it tends to distract the cooks. However, in the dining room we keep it fun with blues and jazz.

Q: What is your prediction for the next big food or restaurant trend?
Hopefully regional Southern cuisine! But I think the small plate format is still holding strong, and I don’t see the trend of celebrity chefs opening burger joints slowing down either.

Q: Is there a food you simply refuse to eat?
Not anymore. I’ve given everything a second or third chance, and I can find enjoyment in just about anything. I did order a durian fruit magic bubble tea at a Vietnamese restaurant that I simply could not touch. That is one taste I won’t be acquiring any time soon!

Q: What is the best tip you could give a home cook?
Buy food at farmer’s markets, shop local and in season as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to play around with recipes to suit individual tastes!

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