The America's Test Kitchen star talks networking, success, and the power of representation.
Elle Simone Scott is the first black woman cast as a regular on-air contributor on the PBS cooking show America’s Test Kitchen. She also has created beautiful food behind the scenes as a food stylist and culinary producer for the Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Bravo. Scott’s career began in social work, and in 2013 she incorporated SheChef, a networking organization for women chefs of color that she founded and continues to run.
JT: What do you wish more people understood about food styling?
ESS: It’s not just making food look fantastic; you have to make it appealing to everyone. Appreciating differences without adopting or subscribing to them is a constant life lesson.
JT: You’re often in front of the camera. What does that role mean to you?
ESS: No more black and brown girls—or any girls of color—will have to search for an image that makes them feel encouraged toward their cooking or TV dreams. It’s more than an opportunity; it’s the privilege of representation.
JT: When a young girl of color tells you what it means to see you on TV, how does it feel?
ESS: It makes my heart so full, it pops. There’s no work if you’re not leaving a legacy. Otherwise it’s self-serving, and once you’re gone, it’s gone.
JT: How do you stay even-keeled in an anxiety-inducing world?
ESS: I’m a cancer survivor. Once I came to the brink of death and went through chemo, I understood that nothing matters more than having a full life. Also, if you gain trust as a leader in a genuine way, your followers know in a moment of tragedy, you will maintain your composure and lead.
JT: When did that click for you?
ESS: When I noticed SheChef was turning into a movement, I thought about how it could elevate, escalate. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be calm because other organizations move faster, with more revenue, but I believe it’s more important to be more calculated.
JT: When did you notice SheChef was turning into something bigger?
ESS: I felt isolated in the culinary industry and wanted connection. Within the first six months, I went from having 3 mentees to 22. I couldn’t manage it alone.
JT: What do you hope members take away?
ESS: That there are a lot of people in this industry who care about their success and well-being. They have SheChef and every network SheChef is affiliated with.
JT: It sounds like everything comes back to connection.
ESS: Networking is my favorite thing. I’m not shy about sending an email to tell someone I want to meet them. If I can’t help someone, I will find out who can.