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September 19, 2018

Warrenton chef combines taste and healthy choices

Photos/Don Del Rosso
“I kind of want to say looks are number one and taste is number two, because you eat with your eyes first,” says Natural Marketplace Chef Brandon Scott.
“I like the commitment to quality food,” says regular customer Jill Gardner. “That’s the biggest thing.”
He’s the first trained chef we’ve ever had. That makes all the difference in the world.
— Natural Marketplace owner Shelly Ross
Brandon Scott
• Age: 29

• Work: Head chef, The Natural Market place, Warrenton, 2015-present; pastry chef, Foti’s restaurant, 2013-15

• Home: Culpeper.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, culinary arts management, Delhi (N.Y.) University, 2012; Vestal (N.Y.) High School, 2008.

• Family: Parents; 3 sisters, 1 brother.

• Hobbies: Gardening, hiking, making pottery.

By The Numbers

Price of most wraps at The Natural Market Place.

Price of most hot and cold sandwiches.

Price of 16-ounce organic juices.

Price of 16-ounce smoothies.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Without fail, the Manassas man visits the Old Town Warrenton health food store at least once a week.

“I’m a huge fan” of The Natural Marketplace, primarily because of the food its head chef prepares, explained William White, 45, a retired senior manager with an international consulting firm. “He knows what he’s doing.

“It’s simple but, at the same time, it’s complex in the way he puts it together. You know you’re eating healthy, but you can’t tell because it so delicious.”

Brandon Scott took over the Diagonal Street store’s second-floor kitchen and deli in February 2015, after less than two years at the upmarket Foti’s restaurant in Culpeper.

“I pay a close attention to how everything’s prepared,” explained Mr. Scott, 29. “And I usually don’t make flavors too difficult. I like to keep it pretty simple and let the ingredients shine for themselves.”

He also makes presentation a high priority.

“I kind of want to say looks are number one and taste is number two, because you eat with your eyes first,” the Culpeper resident said. “But they’re both up there.”

Ultimately, Mr. Scott hopes his food will persuade people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

In short order, Mr. Scott refined the store’s organic soup, sandwich, wrap and salad menu and added a few savory items of his own.

“He’s the first trained chef we’ve ever had,” said market owner Shelly Ross, who opened the store 20 years ago and launched the deli in about 2009. “That makes all the difference in the world.

“His standards are so high. He’s impeccable with ingredients; he’s impeccably organized.”

He also has a knack for customer service and brings focus, motivation and task-oriented determination unmatched by any of the dozens of cooks she has hired over the years, said Ms. Ross, a certified nutritional consultant.

“He knows what everybody likes,” she said. “He has the best work ethic and is probably the best person we’ve had here in 29 years. And we’ve had some great people.”

Retired Fauquier High School history teacher Richard Deardorff has been a long-time Natural Marketplace customer.

He likes that the food combines quality and value, said Mr. Deardorff, 68.

“I think it’s the only place in town that makes a decent wrap,” said the Culpeper resident. “They’re incredibly filling. I’ll eat half of it (for lunch) and save the other half for later.”

On Monday, he left with a California Dreamin wrap — avocado, lettuce tomato, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, Chevre goat cheese and Herbamare salt and garlic-dill mayo.

The deli area includes a small table and seating for four or more.

Jill Gardener, 34, of Warrenton gets take-out there a few times a month.

“He does a good job of mixing flavors,” Ms. Gardner, the managing partner of a headhunting firm that places people in restaurant jobs, said of the head chef. “I’ve never had anything that wasn’t delicious.

“I like the commitment to quality food. That’s the biggest thing.”

Ms. Gardner on Tuesday ordered a pesto chicken wrap — roasted tomatoes, crisp greens and fresh mozzarella.

“If it’s something quick, this is the healthiest option we have” in Warrenton, she said of the deli.

Gretchen Warner, 38, of Warrenton agrees.

And while deli items might be considered pricey, Ms. Warner believes quality and portions more than offset cost.

“You pay for quality,” said the urgent care nurse, who got a California Dreamin wrap. “And it’s enough to share, which I’m going to do with a friend.”

Hot and cold sandwiches cost $10.99, most wraps $12.99, 16-ounce smoothies $8.99 and an 8-ounce soup $3.99.

“They’re not cheap, but I have the philosophy you can scrimp on other things,” said Mr. White, the retired consultant. “But things you put in your body, you don’t scrimp.”

On Tuesday, he got a Turkey Ruben and the vegetarian chili.

Ninety-five percent of everything the deli uses “is organic, fresh, whole and nutrient-packed,” reads the menu, which offers five breads, including a gluten-free option.

A Virginia native, Mr. Scott moved from Culpeper to Upstate New York with his mother about 20 years ago, after his parents divorced.

After high school, he enrolled in Delhi (N.Y.) University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management in 2012.

A year later, Mr. Scott returned to Culpeper, “because I just figured I wanted to be around this side of my family — my dad’s side of the family again,” he explained.

In the fall of 2013, he joined Foti’s as a prep cook and later rose to pastry chef.

As a culinary arts student, Mr. Scott thought someday he would start a restaurant.

“I don’t think it had to be French but something fancy.”

The Foti’s experience dashed that idea.

“After working there, I saw that takes a lot, a lot of work and time.”

With no predictable schedule, he typically put in more than 40 hours a week at Foti’s.

The move to The Natural Marketplace made sense, Mr. Scott said.

For one thing, he has a routine, working 35 hours a week, 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

And he likes the store’s commitment to providing organic food and promoting healthy eating practices.

“I was making changes in my life, and it was just a good atmosphere” that helped reorder his food priorities, said Mr. Scott, who maintains vegetable and cut flower gardens at home. “Working at the market has gotten my brain to want to eat something that is going to do something for my body, rather than just satisfy my tongue.”

Mr. Scott left Foti’s and joined the marketplace in February 2015.

At Foti’s, he left behind a well-equipped commercial kitchen and five- to six-person staff for a much smaller operation.

The market kitchen has a panini iron, a two-quart blender, juicer, refrigerator and four-burner stove/oven and a four-slice toaster.

Mr. Scott and two part-time cooks do all the prep and produce everything that comes out of the kitchen, including catering jobs and party platters.

But Foti’s taught him invaluable on-the-job-skills he still applies.

“I learned how to move quickly and get things done, without sacrificing quality,” Mr. Scott recalled. “The owner taught us not to sacrifice speed for quality and sacrifice quality for speed.”

In ways big and small, the market job required an adjustment, he admitted.

“It was a bit of a shock, because (at Foti’s) I was using white sugar and cream and butter and wheat flour.”

By contrast, The Natural Marketplace uses gluten-free flour, maple syrup and coconut sugar as sweeteners and coconut oil rather than butter for cooking, Mr. Scott said.

He prefers the market because it gives him more control over the work.

“I get to order the produce I want to cook whatever I want.”

The menu features 15 kinds of sandwiches and wraps, including four Mr. Scott created — Pesto Chicken, Curried Egg Salad, You Got The Beet and the Falafel Wrap.

The deli also offers a freshly made soup of the day, a daily lunch special, stews, salads, nine organic juices and seven organic smoothies.

While food will remain central to his life, Mr. Scott talks about other creative pursuits.

“I’ve been thinking of doing something other than cooking, maybe in tandem with cooking — catering maybe, with some side job. I’d like to do some landscaping or gardening. Pottery would be my dream job, if I could make a living off of making pottery.”

You may reach Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.

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