If you’ve ever enjoyed a meal at B&O American Brasserie, Scott Hines, 34, is the guy to thank. The Philadelphia native is executive chef at the restaurant, meaning he oversees anything food-related there, from creating the restaurant menus to food service for the Hotel Monaco (to which B&O is connected).
Growing up in an interfaith household (his mom is Jewish, his dad Christian), they celebrated “Chrismakkuh,” he said, but he tries to keep in touch with his Jewish side, attending synagogue when he can and occasionally punching up traditional Jewish foods for his menus.
He usually ends up working 12- to 14-hour days, but it’s clear Hines loves his job and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Why did you become a chef?
It was just a job, but it turned out I was pretty good at it. I wound up deciding to make it a career. I went to culinary school — just for a little bit. I was working two full-time jobs and going to school and wound up having my first daughter, so I had to give up school. But I got lucky and got into some really good restaurants and worked my way up the ladder.
I can’t see myself sitting in an office. I like that my job is ever-evolving, I like that it’s organized chaos. I have the luxury — and the curse — that my job never stops. When I go home, I don’t just forget about it. When I’m walking down the street, I’ll be like, “Oh, what’s that smell?” There’s always something new to do or something new to try.
How do you come up with ideas of what to serve and how to make it unique?
Some of it is collaboration with me and my sous chefs, some of it is just from going out to eat, some of it is just stealing ideas. Really, when someone takes your idea, it’s a compliment. It means you did something great, and they want to use it.
Do you have a favorite meal or type of food to make?
At home, I try to keep it pretty simple. Like, one of my favorite things to cook and eat at home is biscuits and gravy — super simple. I love it, my kids love it. I try to use that concept in the restaurant, but obviously it has to be elevated a little bit.
I would say that my approach to food and what I like to cook is elevated comfort food. I want it to be somewhat familiar, but I want it to be something like, “I would never have thought to do a pot roast like this,” or whatever it is.
You’re also Food Network famous, going on “Guy’s Grocery Games” in 2015. What was that like?
It was cool! I sent out an application online and went through some phone and Skype interviews. They flew me out to
California for four days and paid for everything, which was great. It’s real time, it’s not TV time. Like, 30 minutes is 30 minutes. It actually came down to me and another chef from Baltimore. It was definitely an experience. It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet some really cool people. Guy [Fieri] actually is a really nice guy. And it’s a plus to win money, of course.
Other than B&O, what are some of your favorite restaurants in Baltimore?
There’s a place called Gnocco that’s very small and doing great stuff. It’s Mediterranean. Wit & Wisdom, Bottega. There’s a place called Lobo in Fells Point. It’s like a dive bar, but it has some really cool food.
What tends to be some of your most popular menu items?
Obviously, crab cake. We sell a lot of crab cakes. Burger. But right now, on this menu, I would say one of our top sellers — and one of my favorite dishes — is our lamb noisette.
One of my very unique dishes that I’m a big fan of right now is our oxtail marmalade with bone marrow schmaltz, which is a nod to my Jewish heritage. Now, am I putting gefilte fish on the menu? Probably not. But I did put latkes on our Christmas menu as an appetizer with a smoked applesauce.