Upon realizing at the age of twenty that he was not going to be rock star and uncomfortable returning to his parent’s Detroit nest, Scott Schroeder moved to Philadelphia and took a job in a Fairmount restaurant. He did not immediately feel the brotherly love.
One restaurant later, Schroeder found himself at Jake’s, the restaurant where he would find the direction he previously lacked and begin to seriously pursue a career as a chef. A few more kitchens and years later and he is now a fixture of Philadelphia’s blossoming restaurant scene, regarded for his work at South Philadelphia Taproom (SPTR) and American Sardine Bar (ASB).
In advance of the Philly Veg Pledge, of which he is a Pledge, I met with Schroeder—he (jokingly) suggested sharing a cheesesteak—to discuss his relationship with food.
Schroeder tells me he’s spent a lot of time cooking meat. It’s what he’s best at, though he confesses it can be boring. With meat, the singular goal is to not overcook it. There is more to vegetables; they’re the “personality” of a plate. Referencing Rich Landau of Vedge, Schroeder says working with vegetables is harder, but yields more exciting results. Gleefully, he says, “I really, really, really like vegetables!” (Broccoli rabe, kale or another green slow-cooked in olive oil, garlic and red pepper being one of his favorites.) His affection for the lower left quadrant of the Food Plate did not, however, always lead to responsible food choices.
With a focus on health, Schroeder made the conscious decision in 2014 to stop feeding himself “crap.” After viewing Food, Inc. and realizing he was no longer willing to eat what he was cooking and serving others, Schroeder approached his boss at SPTR and proposed a shift to healthier, more sustainable practices. The shift was granted and Schroeder began to cook and serve foods he believed in. (Costs—his boss’ chief concern—went up rather significantly, but Schroeder stuck it out, built relationships with local farmers and watched as others made similar shifts and his prices leveled out.)
There is no farm-to-table fanfare surrounding what he serves now; it’s all just part of the operation. Vegetarian options—good ones—are offered at SPTR and ASB, and while he embraces the versatile deliciousness of vegetables and maintains a commitment to responsible food-sourcing, Schroeder does not see the industry doing much to limit or eliminate meat. “Eating at a restaurant is a luxury,” he explains, and diners should “choose their own adventure.”
Schroeder will document his Veg Pledge experience by sharing what he’s eating and serving. Up next, the opening of something new in Queen Village. He kept mum on the particulars, but confessed to anticipating the opening—a dream twenty years in the making—with equal parts with trepidation and excitement. We look forward to choosing our own (vegetarian) adventure.