In the movie classic “Road House,” Patrick Swayze was a “cooler,” a specialized bouncer traveling from bar to bar solving problems. Scott Stroud, 27, has a similar role for restaurants managed by Orchestrate Management, but with fewer throats being ripped out and no mullet.
If a chef at Django goes on vacation, Stroud is there. If Centro is trying out some new menu items, Stroud is there. If Orchestrate is working an event like Swine or Rare Affair, Stroud is there.
He recently headed up the pop-up restaurant Bubba, and is learning front-of-house management skills at Django.
Q:What does your resume look like?
I’m from Des Moines originally and got my first job at Sheffields Deli when I was 14. I got hooked and from there went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis. After that I went to France, Las Vegas, Alaska, Miami, then about 50 restaurants in Des Moines. I’ve worked at Dos Rios, Phat Chefs, Alba, Tartine, Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
It’s kind of a chef’s mentality to travel as much as you can when you’re younger and soak stuff up. Orchestrate allows me to have that gypsy roaming mentality while still staying in one place.
Q:What brought you back to Des Moines?
It was fun to be in Alaska in the summer, but in the winter it was pitch black and cold. Miami is fun, but drinks are $15 a pop. They were all seasonal jobs, so I knew the end date. I like the quality of life here, and you can be on the leading edge of new and different concepts.
Q:What do you enjoy most about cooking?
I guess I just like the human instinct to satisfy others’ needs, and to serve others. I like to have friends over and to cook for my wife. To do it on a mass scale and to see the comment cards is a good feeling. It’s tough and grueling at times, but as long as you’re trying your hardest, it’s a great feeling.
Q:Where do you like to go out to eat?
I’m biased, but I’m hooked on Zombie Burger right now. George (Formaro) said it’s like crack and rainbows. I’ll pop in and out to get a burger and shake.
Outside of Orchestrate, I love Miyabi 9. It’s the best sushi in town, period.
Alba, I used to work there, and it’s very chef driven, always doing fun and different things. Jason Simon (owner/chef) lives above the restaurant and loves what he does and pushes that on everyone.
I also love Louie’s Wine Dive. Those are probably my top three.
Q:Do you have any cooking traditions?
The big thing at my house is my wife and I alternate on cooking Sunday dinner, or we make it together. During the week we’ll do soup, salads or sandwiches, but on Sunday we’ll roast a chicken or make some kind of braised beef. It gives us a chance to take the time to do it right. It’s a labor of love, but to sit down together and enjoy a meal is always a blast.
Q:Is there a food trend you see coming to Des Moines, or you think needs to come here?
I wish we had food trucks. It doesn’t have to be to the extent of New York, where there is one on every corner, but I can only think of two in Des Moines and they’re both stationary.
I’m seeing a lot more places going local, and pushing where the food is from. For Centro’s New Year’s Eve menu they did a meal that was 100 percent from Iowa farmers. It’s amazing to think you can do that now, and I’m seeing that trend a lot more.
Q:What’s your kitchen at home like?
It’s pretty basic. I have a gigantic cutting board — which I recommend to everybody — and I leave it out all the time. I have one trusty knife that’s razor sharp.
When we moved into our house, I insisted on granite countertops. When you’re working with pastries, pasta and bread you have to have that cool surface. There’s a reason for granite besides looking nice.
There are no crazy gadgets at home; we get by with the bare essentials.