Today’s featured partner is Scottie’s Deli, an Oklahoma City delicatessen that was founded on the three principles of passion, craftsmanship and quality. Nurturing a mix of traditional and modern Jewish, German, and Italian culinary influences, Owner Eric Fossett and Chef Jake Red Elk create a variety of menu options crafted from scratch. Fossett took the time to provide insight into the tradition and innovation that helps Scottie’s thrive:
You opened Scottie’s Deli in late 2017 after transitioning from a career in the oil industry. What attracted you to entrepreneurship as a restaurant owner?
There really are several factors that led to opening Scottie’s Deli. 1.) My family had sandwich shops in northern California when I was growing up, so sandwiches are a large part of my history. 2.) I have long had a love of great food and scratch cooking and 3.) When I moved to Oklahoma City in 2014 I noticed there was not a traditional style deli like I was used to in other big cities I had lived in (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Houston).
So, when I found myself looking for my next venture after the oil downturn, the idea that immediately came to mind was to open a deli. I spent the next few months exploring all my options but kept coming back to the deli concept, and specifically, the deli concept in Oklahoma City. I felt it was the right time and place for several reasons: first and foremost is the sense of community I had experienced here. Second was the exciting growth I had seen since moving here, and lastly was the idea of sharing my passion for high quality food.
Why did you decide to base your deli concept on a variety of ethnic food traditions?
Delicatessen is a German loanword which first appeared in English in 1889 and is the plural of Delikatesse. In German it was originally a French loanword, délicatesse, meaning “delicious things (to eat).” The first Americanized short version of this word, deli, came into existence c. 1954.
The delicatessen is a large part of American history, and we are trying to embrace that while also providing a modern take on it. As Jewish, Italian, German, Greek, etc. immigrants moved to America, they brought their cooking traditions with them and opened stores in their neighborhoods, or delicatessens. As cities and technology grew, the need for the neighborhood delicatessen started to wane, to the point that there are few remaining delis – yet every big city still has them. With that in mind, I decided not to do a strictly Jewish, or solely Italian-style deli but instead opted to embrace the concept and importance they all played in American history to just call it an American Deli. Overall, we don’t feel we are basing the concept on ethnic food traditions as much as incorporating classic deli food traditions.
You partner with Chef Jake Red Elk to prepare all meals from scratch. How do you incorporate creativity in your offerings?
Chef Jake Red Elk (from Florida and formerly of Mary Eddys, KDs, Mahogany, etc.) and I try to honor the traditional deli foods, such as the Reuben and Pastrami (brined and smoke in-house), but put our spin on the dishes. For instance, we add a little more smoke to the Pastrami than your typical East Coast deli and we use our house-made whole grain mustard instead of the traditional yellow mustard. Beyond the standard deli offerings, we just have a passion and love for tasty foods, so we frequently experiment with our ingredients and flavors. I have a standing challenge to my employees to experiment and create new dishes. We also frequently travel and look for inspiration in foods of other cities. Basically, what it comes down to is a staff that is passionate about food, committed to doing things right, and knowledgeable and interested in creating delicious food.
Why do you support Allied Arts through participation in the OKCityCard Partnership?
Community is probably the largest reason I decided to open up shop in Oklahoma City, so any opportunity to partner with a group bringing such positive energy to the community is essential to us. Allied Arts is such a monumental force in our community that any support we can offer to help them enrich our community through arts is considered an honor for us.
What do the arts mean to you? Why are the culinary arts important for our community?
To me, the Arts, in a broad sense, represent the human experience, past, present and possibly future if you subscribe to the “life imitating art” concept. Art, as a whole reflect the times, the culture, the history, the beliefs, the mood of a people. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that much of what we know from past civilizations was learned through their art and the culinary arts are no exception. Many of the foods we all cook were passed down through at least a few generations, likely from recipes from their homelands that had to be changed based on local availability of ingredients. The dishes would also vary based on nationality. As we are starting to see in our modern culture, and as I’m sure was true in the past with immigration and integration of cultures, you see fusion and new foods being created. So, to me, where I see the importance of culinary arts is really two-fold: it is a preservation of our roots and our pasts, but it also represents our growth and integration as a society.