Think of your favorite comfort food, and you might picture your grandmother whisking away at something creamy on the stovetop, a delicious aroma filling the air. But visit the kitchen at Sweet Berry Farm, and Rhode Island native Chef Scott Amaral will gladly squash this soul food stereotype with just one taste. Real comfort food doesn’t come with age, or from a certain region; it is simply created from scratch, with love (and, of course, top-notch seasonal ingredients). As the Sweet Berry Farm’s resident chef for ten years and counting, Scott takes pride in putting his creative spin on comfort food season after season.
Here’s his story.
Q: Where did your culinary inspiration come from?
A: I didn't grow up in a very food-oriented household. My mom was a pro at meatballs and chocolate chip cookies, but didn’t venture into anything much fancier than that. I was inspired to cook professionally by watching TV shows like The Great Chefs and The Galloping Gourmet.
Q: What kind of formal training do you have?
A: After attending New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, I worked at Newport’s Blackstone Caterers for ten years. Most of what I cook today, I learned to prepare at Blackstone, where I was exposed to a variety of cooking methods and high-quality ingredients. It was a great opportunity to develop my skills and learn to cook for large groups.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your experience with Sweet Berry Farm?
A: I’m celebrating my tenth anniversary with Sweet Berry Farm in June. We have a strong core crew in the kitchen, with lots of cohesion and collaboration. It’s a true pleasure to work alongside skilled cooks who also make your day fun.
Q: What are some of your favorite meals to prepare?
A: I prepare comfort meals, from Southern to Italian and French in style. I love the freedom that comes with creating dishes featuring seasonal ingredients. Some of my favorite dishes to make are coq au vin, and salmon as many different ways as I can — blackened salmon, chive roasted salmon, and more. My specialties on the farm include home-style meatloaf, Italian sausage, beef stroganoff, and fried green tomatoes, which are all available in our Farm Market. They fly off the shelves!
Q: Sweet Berry Farm fans love the food that’s available for the summer concerts. What can you tell us about what’s in store for this year?
A: We’re planning a culinary theme for each concert — from Italian to Southern and more. I like to listen to the music of the band scheduled to play that week and dream up a unique a satisfying meal to serve. It’s imaginative and fun and one of the best parts of my job.
Q: What’s your favorite part about working at Sweet Berry Farm?
A: I love the creative aspect. Every day is different. I take pride in the quality of the culinary experience you can expect here at the farm. Today, more frozen food is being used in kitchens than ever before. There’s more automation. But we really try to keep things as homemade as possible. We like to joke that everything starts with an onion! It’s rewarding to produce prepared food that is made from scratch with local ingredients. I would rather buy local, because you tend to know the person you're getting it from, and that’s a good feeling. I select the highest quality of ingredients to provide our customers with the best products they have come to enjoy.