By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
The Harrisburg area is filled with great chefs who work tirelessly to break new ground, exceed expectations, and keep us coming back for more. Scott Kemp, head chef at Vrai, Restaurant, located at 1015 Market St. in Lemoyne, is a self-described late bloomer in the culinary world. He wows the palate by his extensive menu that relies on a variety of clean, unprocessed, and mostly organic ingredients, offering something for anyone’s palate.
When and why did you first realize you wanted to work in the culinary world?
“I never cooked until I was 22 years old. I learned the basics of cooking from my cousin, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and decided that maybe becoming a chef might be something I would enjoy. After becoming a grill cook at Red Robin and then gaining more experience at Simply Turkey and More where I prepared menu items and gained additional responsibilities, including ordering produce, I decided to enroll at The Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts— a division of YTI Career Institute-in Lancaster and graduated after 21 months. While still in school, I landed at Vrai as an extern. Owner Shelly Page encouraged me to take on more and more responsibilities and eventually became I became the head chef. I’ve been at Vrai for four years.”
Who inspires you in the kitchen?
“I always loved reading about food and recipes. I am an Anthony Michael Bourdain fan, and I’ve read all of his books. I definitely draw inspiration from him.”
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
“The desire to constantly improve flavors. This is my focus. Is it challenging? Yes. But it’s rewarding, too.”
The most rewarding part?
“With owner Shelly Page’s input I have creative rein and this is very rewarding. In the process, I have changed many things and am always looking to improve what we serve and where we can source the best products. I also take customers’ dietary needs seriously and encourage our servers to try to understand what is needed and then communicate that information to me.”
What food trend are you keeping an eye on?
I’m particularly interested in the slow foods movement. I want to learn more about growing food and discovering how regional cuisines are preserved. I am of the Italian mindset where making cheese, aging and preserving is key. I like the notion of going back to your roots and using the techniques that have served our ancestors in the past. The future of food is returning to our roots.”
What are you passionate about?
“I love learning. I love to read old recipes. I collect cookbooks, and I use the knowledge gleaned in my recipes. Devouring cookbooks is awesome. That’s my passion.”