Chef committed to improving Saskatoon's culinary scene, from startups to family suppers
Scott Dicks plans to open new restaurant in spring 2019
On a Thursday evening, Scott Dicks is carefully setting up for a sold-out cooking class at Saskatoon's The Local Kitchen.
Inside this community kitchen space, on a long, white countertop, there are stations where people will chop, dice, mix and boil ingredients into a delicious meal, all under the careful eye of "Chef Scotty."
"I like it when 80 per cent of the people are really involved and asking questions, while 20 per cent are there relaxing, watching and having a good time," Dicks says as people begin to file in for the class.
Dicks has become an attraction at The Local Kitchen thanks to his culinary teaching skills, but he's also known for sharing his knowledge and expertise with local businesses to help them grow.
"He's friendly and genuinely wants to see people improve," says Julie Gryba, one of the owners of The Local Kitchen.
"That's why he gets involved in all of these startups in Riversdale because he just wants to make sure they get off on the right foot."
Dicks owns Rural Saskatoon, a catering and consulting company that is working with several small businesses in the Riversdale neighbourhood. Besides teaching at The Local Kitchen, he is the culinary director of Collective Coffee, where he oversees the menu and ensures every item meets his high standards. He also works with Saskatoon's 9 Mile Brewery on special events.
However, it's when he's teaching at The Local Kitchen and cooking for people in their homes that he really gets to share his joy of cooking. Despite being terrified to teach in front of strangers at first, Dicks has grown to embrace the opportunity.
"A lot of times as a chef, you're kind of telling people what they like as opposed to really seeing (their reactions). Sure, they might eat it and say that it's good and interesting, but when you see the eyebrows go up, you see the eyes light up, you see the smile, then you know that's a winner."
Gryba said Dicks makes Riversdale's high-calibre culinary scene approachable.
"We have a lot of really talented chefs in Saskatoon, and we're lucky to have them, but sometimes it can feel like they're so talented that they're on a different level than the home chef."
Dicks grew up in rural Alberta and went to culinary school in Calgary. At 25, he started cooking at Boneta, a Vancouver restaurant that had just been named the second best new restaurant in Canada. He put his head down, did what was asked of him, and quickly expanded his skills.
"After a while, you realize that it's a lot of repetition and exposing yourself to new things and talking to a lot of people, and all of a sudden you start to get good. It's one of those things where the better you get, the easier it gets to get better," said Dicks.
He met chefs Christie Peters and Kyle Michaels while working in Vancouver. When they moved to Saskatoon and opened The Hollows and Primal restaurants, Dicks returned to the Prairies to work in their kitchens.
About two years ago, Dicks left the restaurant scene and took the consulting and educator gig. He loves that people are giving independent restaurants in Saskatoon a chance.
"If you are someone who dines out on a regular basis, you get to know the servers and you start to realize what a great, small business community has — especially the Riversdale area where everyone knows everyone and everyone supports each other."
Dicks will soon be adding another business to that community. He is opening a new restaurant called Odla in spring 2019 in the old Nino's restaurant space in the Broadway neighbourhood. Dicks wants the fun, comfortable atmosphere of his cooking classes to translate to his new home.
This article is based on an episode of YXE Underground. It's a podcast focusing on people in Saskatoon who are making a difference in the community but are not receiving the attention they deserve in social or mainstream media. You can listen to YXE Underground here. You can also download episodes on iTunes or the podcast app of your choice.