If there were ever the right person for the right job, it’s Chef Russell Scott, CMC. As Corporate Chef and Vice President of Culinary for The Middleby Corporation, he brings a lifetime of experience to his role as General Manager of the new, 40,000-sq. ft. Middleby Innovation Kitchens, or the MIK, in Lewisville, Texas just minutes from DFW Airport.
“All I’ve ever done is food and beverage and cooking,” says Scott. Although he originally thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps in the steel working trade, early experience working in foodservice showed Scott that was a better career path for him. “I had some good encouragement,” he says. “I liked the people I worked with, decided to go into that and never looked back.”
Scott has held executive chef positions at many upscale resorts and hotels, including The Club at Carlton Woods in Woodland, Texas, and The Everglades in Palm Beach, Fla. He was also Dean of Education at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif., where he was responsible for the quality and effectiveness of all education programs. In 2008, the American Culinary Federation named Scott the USA’s Chef of the Year™, and he has participated in numerous international cooking competitions, such as the 1996 Culinary Olympics.
With such a stellar background, why would Scott want to leave the world of restaurants and resorts and move into a more corporate environment? The answer is simple: to learn more and to share what he has learned with others. “Most chefs love equipment,” Scott says. “We’re all about the knives, tools and equipment.” With 15 active cooking areas and 150 pieces of live, operating equipment in the MIK, Scott has the unique opportunity to learn something new all the time, and share that knowledge with the Middleby customers and channel partners who visit the Kitchens. “There is are such a diversity of Middleby equipment and many pieces equipment I’ve rarely worked with in the past, even being in the business for so long,” Scott says.
Scott explains that the Middleby Innovation Kitchens are different from traditional foodservice kitchens. ‘Working in both small areas and giant kitchens throughout my career, this is a really big facility but it’s not set up like a back-of-house kitchen,” he says. “It’s a front-of-house kitchen all the way; it’s really finely appointed.”
But there’s much more to the Middleby Innovation Kitchens than just a beautiful exterior. “As guests go around and carefully examine the different suites, the technology is very impressive,” he says. That innovation extends to virtually every area of foodservice equipment — including baking, combis, frying, griddling and pizza equipment, to name just a few of the individual stations.”
Not only do the Kitchens have an impressive lineup of cooking and refrigeration equipment, but “beverages are also a strong part of what we do,” Scott says. With a wide range of hot and cold beverage equipment, nitro coffee and liquor dispense and even an on-site brewery, the beverage area is also well covered. That’s of particular interest to Scott, who has operated boutique wine stores in the past and is currently studying for his sommelier certification.
Like any good chef, Scott has an accomplished team to work with at the MIK. Executive Sous Chef Kyle Wilson has more than 20 years of experience in both the corporate and independent sides of foodservice. A graduate of Sullivan University in Louisville, Ky., he brings extensive experience to Middleby, ranging from white-tablecloth restaurant cuisine to food preparation for high-volume business functions. Wilson not only assists Scott with food preparation, but he also handles the purchasing function for the Kitchens. Mike Elling, Chief Steward for the MIK, is a Culinary Arts graduate of the Art Institute of Dallas, and he has also worked in a wide range of foodservice operations.
To make the MIK a truly immersive experience, guests use the Middleby Made Dining Room, an elegant 70-seat dining room where the Middleby chefs get to really put this equipment through its paces, whether ifor a casual meal or a fine dining experience. For smaller groups, the best seat in the house is available, a 14-seat chef’s table experience called The Elements. Both of these venues show the versatility of the many brands of equipment featured in the Kitchens.
For Chef Russell Scott and the rest of the team, the Middleby Innovation Kitchens are a veritable culinary playground. The facility “far exceed everything that we imagined,” he says, “with equipment and concepts that are better, faster and smarter than anyone expected.”
Hear more from Chef Russell on his latest podcast.