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Amuse-Bouche: The hospitality industry’s rising tide

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By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist

Most of my friends know I love quotes and aphorisms.

I love funny ones that make people laugh at just the right time; the intellectual quotes that give me pause and think a bit deeper; the adages that inspire my peers and team to focus on why we do what we do.

One in particular stands out, and I use it more so since moving back to Big Sky last year. John F. Kennedy famously used it in 1963: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” For me, it represents how the hospitality industry could be better nationwide, and especially here in Big Sky.

A good friend of mine, Rich Knowles, purchased a restaurant in Florida with his father last summer. We first met when I hired him as a cook nine years ago, and would subsequently bring him on at three other restaurants as my life and career took shape.

When I joined the Buck’s T-4 team as executive chef in May of 2014, I tried to hire him again but he was already chef at the restaurant he eventually purchased.

I helped him re-launch his restaurant last fall then suggested he send his sous chef and restaurant manager to spend some time at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky. Their visit was rewarding for all of us and I felt, in a way, more rewarded than they did by mentoring two of his valued team members.

Last February, Buck’s Co-owner and Director of Food and Beverage Chuck Schommer and I were invited to a “No Kid Hungry” fundraiser in conjunction with the annual Democratic Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

At the conclusion of the event, and in typical chef fashion, we went out on the town to socialize. It didn’t take long to get past pleasantries and small talk. Soon we were eating and drinking together, and trading recipes, concepts and ideas like we were in a quilting circle. We swapped iPhone photos of our food like parents show wallet pictures of their kids.

Chefs are by nature competitive. But we’re also miners and traders of information. We’re constantly watching what other chefs are doing. When I see a chef perfect a technique, or take a new direction with an ingredient or flavor, I embrace it.

I don’t envy that chef, wishing I had thought of it first. Instead, I’m excited knowing that the inspiration will spread through kitchens across the community with unbridled enthusiasm.

From mentoring Rich’s team members, to trading ideas and recipes with newly found chef friends across the country, I’m proud of the camaraderie today’s chefs can find.

The more we do for each other in hospitality, the better off we all are as an industry.

Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the Executive Chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky.

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