Behind the Table: Chef Scotty Petersen
Chef Scotty Petersen has never been one to take the easy way out. He famously spent one humid Fourth of July lying on sheet trays underneath the dish machine cleaning out floor drains with his hands.
“I’m a doer,” says Chef Scotty, head chef and part-owner of Speak EZ Lounge in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Since he was a teenager, Chef Scotty has called the kitchen home, working in various levels and styles in the food industry. When he started Speak EZ in 2012, he wanted to create a culture of respect, which starts by working side-by-side with his staff in their small, but efficient, kitchen.
“[My staff] know I have their backs no matter what,” Chef Scotty says. “I don’t demand respect, I earn it.”
Chef Scotty’s contagious energy and honesty translate to Speak EZ’s menu, where the dishes cater to diverse cravings and diets.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from historical themes and places. I love to reimagine old-school dishes with new-school flair.”
One of these “new-school flair” dishes is Banh Mi Jackfruit Sliders, which pairs pulled jackfruit tossed in a Thai cashew-peanut sauce served in mini-bao buns with a ginger-carrot-jalapeno slaw. Chef Scotty says nobody in the area was using jackfruit and rarely was it paired with Thai flavors.
For Chef Scotty, the proof of his hard work is in the taste. Throughout his career, he’s used savviness and instinct to create dishes that delight his customers.
“Because of the challenges we have here, it’s made me a better chef.”