Home Cooking with Jason & Julia Scholz
SIMPSONVILLE. As a kid, Chef Jason Scholz earned his allowance slicing strawberries for his mother’s catering company. By 15, he was cooking in restaurants, and he found himself drawn to the long hours and late nights of the hospitality industry.
Julia Scholz started working in restaurants in high school. She went on to earn a degree in Food Service Management at Johnson & Wales and ended up managing Slightly North of Broad in Charleston. It was there she met Jason, who had begun his stint in their kitchen just after the restaurant opened in 1994.
The food-loving couple now has baby Eleanor, who has kept them closer to home for meals. Julia appreciates the slower pace of meals at home since the action is nonstop behind the scenes of their restaurant, Stella’s Southern Bistro. But cooking at home hasn’t kept them from being creative and flexing their culinary muscles. One of Jason’s favorite things to cook is duck; he calls it “the beef tenderloin of the poultry world.” An extremely versatile bird, Jason says, “Duck can go from French to Vietnamese to Chinese to classic American.” Julia grew up in an Italian family, so she recreates the favorites of her childhood, including Italian Wedding Soup and her mother’s specialty, spaghetti and clams.
But even though the couple’s love was ignited in the kitchen, collaboration is out of the question. “Both of us have the idea that it’s my way or the highway, so it’s me or her,” Jason says. “Not both.” Jason doesn’t take himself too seriously, though. When cooking for friends one evening, he recently discovered mushrooms on their three and a half acre property and harvested twelve pounds of oyster and chanterelle mushrooms from their own yard. Since then he’s been reading about raising mushrooms and is excited about having a big garden in their backyard so Eleanor can see food at its source. In Jason’s words, “I have a hundred ideas, 99 of which probably won’t work.”
One perk for restaurateurs who cook at home: Stella’s kitchen serves as a nearby “grocery store” for the family, where they pick up local veggies for their own kitchen. Jason even prepares his family’s Christmas dinner in the restaurant, where he has access to a state-of-the-art kitchen and ingredients galore.
A unique annual holiday tradition for this family happens after the fuss of Christmas and New Year’s has died down. In preparation for the Super Bowl, the Scholzes find an interesting cookbook released in the past year, then invite people over and pass out complicated, labor-intensive recipes with the advice to “figure it out.” Since some of the guests don’t cook, “it’s a big challenge,” but the results are usually tasty and always entertaining. Last year’s Super Bowl party featured a meatball cookbook, so the guests feasted on 20 different kinds of meatballs, from jambalaya to Thai. “That party was really a ball,” Jason says, smirking.
When it’s not a holiday though, the family usually keeps it casual at home, preparing roasted meats and vegetables. They are strict with Eleanor’s diet about keeping milk and meats hormone- and antibiotic-free, but they both believe keeping food local is more important than trying to buy everything organic. Julia explains how hard it is for farms to become certified organic, meaning some farmers can’t afford the designation even if their practices are organic. And Julia doesn’t eat gluten, so she experiments at home with gluten-free baking.
We talk about who Jason would like to prepare a meal for in his own home kitchen, and he says his mom and Julia’s dad would probably have gotten along well. “I’d love to sit around the table with them.” He pauses. “But if not them, then the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.”