Behind the Line With Scape Executive Chef Joe Everett
Executive Chef Joe Everett has been involved with Scape American Bistro since the very beginning—he helped open the Central West End restaurant in 2007—but just recently took the helm when head chef Eric Kelly left in April. In the interim, Everett moved back to his home of Florida, with stints at III Forks Prime Steakhouse in Jacksonville and Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
We chatted with Everett about his own favorite dishes, his commitment to sourcing local ingredients and the changes he’s made since taking over at Scape.
ALIVE: If someone had never been to Scape, how would you describe the menu to them?
Joe Everett: I’d say it’s a fresh, seasonal menu with a bit of a focus on seafood.
ALIVE: What excites you the most about cooking at Scape?
JE: The opportunity to be really seasonal and work with some of the best ingredients available on the market. I enjoy working for Ted [Koplar] because he allows me to cook with whatever I’d like. I like being able to cook with what’s in season and further my knowledge of ingredients I might not be that familiar with, as well as the staff’s.
ALIVE: What are some of your favorite dishes?
JE: The shrimp scampi is one of my favorites; it’s very nice, light and fresh. I also like the free-range chicken; it’s nice and light but also hearty at the same time. The ‘Dayboat Special’ is another one of my favorites because it’s different every day and uses the freshest ingredients.
ALIVE: Do you have a favorite local ingredient to cook with?
JE: It’s whatever I can get my hands on. Right now, we have a caprese salad because there’s a local farm with great heirloom tomatoes, so we’ve been featuring that in the salad and also in the scampi. I also like to do stuff with fresh morels from local vendors. Another farm in Illinois does a lot of microgreens that I use for garnish. Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that microgreens have a lot of nutritional value, too—they’re not just aesthetic.
ALIVE: What do you like to cook at home?
JE: Pretty much old-fashioned comfort food. I grew up eating a lot of Southern cooking, so what I eat at home is a lot of Southern classics like fried pork chops, collard greens and cornbread. Every now and then, I’ll go out and do test runs on new dishes I want to incorporate into the menu. But for the most part, I’d say mostly Southern cuisine.
ALIVE: What changes are you making to the menu?
JE: I put the shrimp scampi, free-range chicken and a few other things on the menu when I came back to Scape, so basically half the menu was mine when Kelly left. I didn’t take everything off because we have some core items that guests really love. Most of the appetizers are new. I put on the crab cake when I got here and the calamari, which is especially nice during summer. I changed up all of the salads and the tuna. We’ve had the scallops on there since I’ve been here, as well as the Dayboat Special.
ALIVE: What other changes are going on at Scape?
JE: At the end of the summer, we’ll have more produce coming into season so I’ll change up the Farmer’s Market Salad. Right now, I’m doing peaches because there are some really nice ones out there. That will probably change every couple of weeks, usually about once a month. Last month was a watermelon salad. In August, I’ll look into changing it up again.
ALIVE: What’s something most people don’t know about Scape?
JE: We have a lot of growth going on. We’ve grown the back bar area a lot, and we really like to incorporate specialty craft brews. A lot of people don’t realize that. We’re not doing your typical Bud Light, Miller and the like. Something a lot of people are doing is focusing on craft beers. We like to feature some local brews from places like Urban Chestnut and Schlafly, and some others we source from across the country.