For 14 years, Scott Earick has been creating his own brand of culinary craft from a tiny kitchen adjacent to the glittering bar at his much-loved restaurant, Scott’s on Fifth in Indialantic.
Along the way, he has amassed a loyal following of regulars and visitors who tuck into the red-walled dining room with oversized art prints, twinkling led lights and the low bass thumping of ambient music.
Tables here are covered in crisp white cloths, martinis and Manhattans served in champagne coupes. Shedding the heat and sand of the outside, most people who come here feel transported by the ambiance, by Scott’s affable personality and by the delicious meals and desserts he skillfully (and lovingly) prepares by hand.
When Covid-19 struck, Scott, a James Beard House Featured Chef, says he had just “crossed the line into profitability” after years of running his restaurant. A wave of panic struck as Scott realized that the small amount of profit he had managed to squirrel away was going to quickly, ahem, get eaten by the uncertainty of the times. Then a lightning bolt of an idea allowed him to reframe the crisis.
When They Can’t Join You, You Join Them
Knowing he could not, like other restaurants who had adapted to the shutdown, provide take out service, nor could he open the restaurant to his beloved clients, he switched the narrative.
“I decided if my customers can’t come to me, then I am going to go to them.”
Years earlier, while living in Tallahassee, Scott had starred and produced in a local television series called Capitol Dish. The shows features Scott with local politicians, hipsters, influencers and the like, cooking together and chatting in cheeky 30-minute segments.
After the shutdown and a brief conversation with his husband, Hank Huston, he decided to launch past episodes from the series through his restaurant’s Facebook page. After two days of release, “I realized that we were attracting quite a bit of attention.” At that point, more than 400 people were watching.
After more conversation with Hank, Scott decided on day three to again step in front of the camera to begin streaming live cooking videos, which, he says, is not being done anywhere else in the country (other cooking videos are heavily styled and pre-recorded).
Throughout the summer, Scott has been showing up behind the lens of Hank’s phone at 6:30 to talk watchers through simple-ish recipes, using easy-to-access ingredients. Hours earlier each day, he would release an ingredients list so viewers could gather together the needed spices, vegetables and meats to make the meal at home.
With his signature…
“Hey Everybody! It’s siiiix thirrrrrty, and you know what THAT means!”
…intro, champagne in hand, Scott launches into his nightly show, starting with a short presentation on whatever is on his mind or heart and then pulling together the ingredients to start the lesson.
Some of the streams have shown Scott in very vulnerable states. During the shutdown, he has lost two pets, a beloved cat named Mr. Peepers and Pepino, Scott’s 18-year-old dachshund. Each episode, he raised a glass of champagne to his fur babies, and then went on with the show. “I’m living life right in front of everyone, sharing my fears, my emotions, my love with everyone,” he said.
Follow Along, Cook at Home
Although he’s cooking in the kitchen at his restaurant, “It’s not the same kind of food I serve there,” he said. Instead, these dishes represent more of an everyday lineup of foods that viewers might not know how to cook but can easily follow along with Scott while he teaches – and preaches – to his choir of home chefs, many of whom are interacting live with him on the video.
Shrimp Scampi. Mock Paella. Thai Peanut Noodles. Freeform Apple Pie with Homemade Caramel Sauce. These are some of the delectable dishes Scott whips up live, using store-bought (not procured) items from local retailers like Publix, Winn Dixie and the Indialantic Seafood Company.
Hank expertly manages the video feed and helps field questions from the comments. Scott replies, giving feedback and instruction on ingredient swaps, or cooking techniques, for example. He also lets people into his heart, sharing his own fears and frustrations about the pandemic along with personal anecdotes, news of the day and updates on his home life, health and his beloved pets.
The video presentations have evolved,” said Hank, noting “It started with people watching Scott cook and has changed now to many viewers cooking along with Scott.” Viewers have logged in from as nearby as the Space Coast to as far away as London, with as many as 1,000 verified viewers on the live stream and up to three or four times that amount of interactions after they are posted.
James Hanchett, a retired Air Force officer living in Warner Robbins, GA (about 90 miles outside Atlanta), has seen every video Scott has posted so far. When he’s not on lockdown, he visits the Space Coast area frequently and when he does, makes a stop at Scott’s on Fifth his first priority.
“Scott’s a rock star in the kitchen, I just love the man. It’s been so great to connect with him through these shows and I tell you, I’ve made at least 20 of the dishes and they are all…just…so… great.”
James’ affinity for Scott is echoed by a number of clientele that, pre-pandemic, made frequent stops to the restaurant, either while visiting from out of town or just driving a few miles from home.
Michelle Mason of Indialantic has been to the Scott’s restaurant a dozen or so times since it opened and says it was always fantastic. She says she has come to a whole new appreciation of Chef Scott since she started watching the streaming videos. “I always liked him,” she said with a giggle, but now “I love, LOVE, love him!” She’s watched about 15 or 20 episodes and her process has also evolved.
“I went from trying to cook along with Scott to realizing how marvelously skilled he is… he makes it look so easy, chatting and cracking jokes while he’s cooking while I am frantically rushing around my kitchen trying to keep up with him,” she said.
Now, Michelle sits down with a glass of wine to watch and comment on the episodes as they stream live, then goes back later to cook them at her own pace, able to stop the show or back up the tape when she needs more time to work out the process.
She also appreciates the access: “It’s like getting a backstage pass into a place you may not be able to go to all the time. And, you don’t have to give up a whole evening to learn something new,” she said, noting the 20 minutes, more or less, of actually cooking time.
More access is coming. After Scott had to stop producing the videos to have surgery for skin cancer, he poured his energy into developing a Quarantine Cookbook with his good friend and Florida Today food and dining reporter Suzy Fleming Leonard. The two are meeting online daily to record the ingredients and preparation techniques together, which Suzy then formats accordingly into the cookbook format. Scott says he hopes the project will be completed by early Fall. Sales will be announced through his social media feeds, and a percentage of proceeds will be divided among charities that support animals, he said.
He also will restart the videos sometime in the near future, after he’s able to reopen the restaurant, anticipated late summer. “I love the show, it’s felt like a calling to me. I’m glad I’m able to connect to my friends and clients through a time when many people can’t leave their homes or see other people, he said. “It’s been a great distraction for me and, I hope, for them as well.”
Scott Earick’s online cooking classes are available for viewing on his Facebook page. Scott’s on Fifth is located at 141 Fifth Avenue in Indialantic. For more information, call 321-729-9779 or visit scottsonfifth.com.