Unlike most chefs, cooking was an accidental career for Greg Scarlatos. He whipped up meals for his fraternity brothers in college, but didn’t take his first restaurant job—as a breakfast cook at a Holiday Inn—until he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. Scarlatos logged stints as a line cook at several boutique French restaurants, then honed his skills at the Country Club of Orlando under master chef Raymond Pitts. It was a crash course in the culinary
arts, working on “everything from ice carving to Lowcountry swamp food,” he says. After earning his degree from the American Culinary Foundation, Scarl
atos spent three years as chef at Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs before opening Fuse, which combines influences as diverse as Asia and the American South. At press time, he was getting ready to open Fuse BBQ, another eclectic venture: “Our brisket is Texas style,” he says, “our ribs are Memphis, our pork is from Carolina, and our chicken is jerk.”
NI: What was the idea behind Fuse?
Scarlatos: Simply put, I wanted to do my own thing. I enjoy putting different ethnic cuisines together.
NI: Where do you source some of your more exotic ingredients?
Scarlatos: I always know a guy who knows a guy. A friend told me about the Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, which is where my quail and wild boar come from. I get the kangaroo from Australia, where it’s farm-raised.
NI: Where did your interest in ethnic cuisines come from?
Scarlatos: My parents were foodies, so we went to a lot of different restaurants: Japanese, Thai, German, Spanish. I’ve also been exposed to a lot of island influences, as well as food from the Deep South.
NI: If you hadn’t become a chef, what would your career have been?
Scarlatos: I love to sculpt, but I can’t make a living doing it. I used to make jewelry, and I’ve worked in clay and plaster of paris. Metal work is very Zen-like for me. It’s the same artistic expression.
NI: If you could only eat one meal, what would it be?
Scarlatos: My grandmother’s chicken salad. She had arthritis, so it took her a long time to make it, and the result reflected the joy she had in making it for us.
NI: What would we find if we looked in your home fridge?
Scarlatos: Not much, because I’m at the restaurant most of the time. We enjoy dairy, things like yogurt and cheese, and simple food like roast chicken and vegetables. I experiment and promote many different ingredients at work, but we’re much more basic at home.