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The TV CHEF



Scott Calhoun

Everyone in Hollywood fondly remembers their first break into the business. Fort Pierce chef Scott Calhoun fondly recalls that moment when he appeared on CBS’ Lucky Dog show and was noticed by network executives. GREG GARDNER PHOTO

BY GREG GARDNER

The next superstar celebrity TV chef is Scott Calhoun from Fort Pierce, but he won’t be moving to Hollywood as he plans to film his episodes on the Treasure Coast.

Calhoun, also known as Chef C, has been a professional chef for 18 years, but his appearance on CBS’ Lucky Dog show had network executives asking, “Who is this guy?”

At age 46, the disabled veteran, with no formal training and six children, might not look the part of a TV chef. The executives saw him in action, tasted his food and the negotiations began with major networks. Calhoun said there are several deals in the works, but he wants control over the shows. “They wanted me to move to Los Angeles and I said, ‘No, we will film it here.’ They wanted me to do 26 episodes a year. I said, ‘We will do 12 episodes a year.’ It is important to stick to your morals and standards before they take over complete control of your content. I wanted to shoot it here.”

Scripts for 12 episodes are complete with three movie-style episodes in post-production. Calhoun insists on filming in 4K video, which is normally used on feature films. The result is sharp, crisp images with vibrant color evidenced in his zinger promo reels, which have been edited, but not yet distributed.

A Five Star Option one-hour episode will begin with shopping at local markets and end with the viewer learning how to create their own fine dining experience.

“There is nothing else like this out there,” Calhoun said. “All you see are competitions — Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, Cutthroat Kitchen — and this is quick casual dining,” he said. In each episode, viewers see five courses made from fresh local fruits and vegetables and entrees from deer, lobster and lionfish among others.

When Calhoun decided to get his chef certification at Indian River State College’s culinary program, he didn’t expect much after working 20 years as a professional chef. “I am going to go on and finish my degree,” he said. “This is the best culinary program in the state of Florida. They just had three students bring home medals from the Culinary Olympics in Europe. It is a major draw for me. My first day of class I knew I had to do this.”

Growing up in Plant City, Calhoun thought the Army would be his career. In Kuwait during the first Gulf War, Calhoun blew out his knees rescuing his tank mate after he caught on fire from an exploding rocket propelled grenade. They fell to the desert and the other soldier dragged Calhoun to safety.

To this day, Calhoun stands and walks with the aid of knee braces, but you wouldn’t know it when he wears his chef’s pants. Asked if it is painful, he just smiled and shrugged off the question. Suffering initially from post-traumatic stress disorder, Calhoun does fine these days with the help of his Labrador service dog, Bonsai. “I used cooking to cope with my PTSD,” he said. He likes to drive — very fast — a hopped up version of the same car used in the Fast and Furious movies.

Calhoun laughed about the fact that he didn’t receive any medals after his service because the 1991 Gulf War to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait was not an officially declared war. He sold real estate for a while in Texas, but had no passion for it. He decided to learn how to cook first at a restaurant outside Fort Hood and later at a five-star restaurant in Austin. “I got paid to learn,” he said.

Calhoun is often called upon to consult for restaurants, dining anonymously and delivering brutally honest criticisms. In addition to private cooking for clients, Calhoun likes to produce a pop-up meal, usually in someone’s large home, for up to 12 people. Beyond 12 people is catering, he said. The diners arrive with no idea what will be served. At the end of the 12 courses — tasting portions — guests are given an envelope with a stamp and they can contribute what they think the meal was worth.

“I will blow up your palate,” Calhoun said. “I can defuse or infuse. I can make fruit savory. I can take the fungus taste out of the mushroom and keep the flavor. Chefs say you can’t cook fish with fruits. I say, ‘Yes, I can.’ People say to me, ‘I have never tasted anything like that in my life.’ ”

One of the reasons Calhoun will break out of the usual TV chef mold is he has no shortage of confidence. But he carries that with a slight air of humility without arrogance. Calhoun is that good and plenty of people have told him so, but he still has a little bit of that unease that plagues artists when they question their own work. “I can outcook any chef on any TV show, but I am not moving to LA,” he said. One of the deals in discussion calls for the Calhoun clan to go on the road in an RV followed by a second RV with the camera crew and gear.

Calhoun will always come back to Fort Pierce and he hopes his show will help spawn filmmaking in the area. It doesn’t get more local than cooking with jackfruit. Calhoun said 30 of the 34 trees in Florida are in Fort Pierce. It takes five years to see if a tree will produce fruit, a 1 in 1,000 chance, he said.

Eric Paul has known Calhoun for six years, ever since he took over his father’s business, Pelican Seafood Co. in Fort Pierce. “Chef C comes in here all the time and he really wants the best of the best,” Paul said. “He loves lionfish and he knows how to take it from the boat to the table with flair.”

Calhoun brought his film crew for two days of shooting at Bruno’s Chocolate Creations, said 40-year-owner Doug Anderson. “We do everything by hand and they filmed our operation,” Anderson said. “He (Calhoun) likes to film the local companies he buys from.”

Anderson said Calhoun uses Bruno’s dark chocolate for his savory recipes. “He clearly explains why he uses certain ingredients,” Anderson said. “Sometimes he uses hard-to-find ingredients for sauces. Scott is a great chef who is always combining herbs and spices. His plating is picture perfect. He is fantastic in the design of the plate itself.”

Whether it is lionfish with five sauces or reduction of pomegranate for a particular dessert, Calhoun is always on the cutting edge of new taste. “My canvas starts with the market and the canvas in my mind,” he said. “Then I plate the canvas to your plate and then to your palate. I am my own worst critic. I always feel I can do better.”


SCOTT CALHOUN

Age: 46
Lives in: Fort Pierce
Occupation: Professional executive chef
Family: Wife, Tesha; sons, Justin, 28; Jerad, 19; Ethan, 12; Maximus, 3; daughters, Jordan, 24; Lexi, 17
What inspires me: “My wife and kids inspire me as a whole and to make a better meal and see the smiles on my clients’ faces.”
Something most people don’t know about me: “Most people don’t know that I am a 100 percent disabled veteran.”