Photo courtesy Nacho Daddy
Most people can walk into their kitchen, grab some chips and cheese and make nachos. Eric Scott believes nachos can be an elevated food item and he’s making great progress as the executive chef at Nacho Daddy, the Las Vegas born and raised restaurant concept where the late night and sporting event staple is star.
The Nacho Daddy concept can seem gimmicky, but once a plate of the upscale nachos hit the table, most heads are turned. With three locations in Las Vegas, it soon could be four and it’s expanding, first to Georgia, then beyond.
Prior to joining Nacho Daddy in 2014, Scott worked with Bobby Flay and Michel Richard at Caesars Palace and owned two restaurants in Colorado, following a lengthy stead with Frank Cork in Montrose, Colorado. We sat down with Scott to find out why he took the reins of the kitchen for such a seemingly simple dish.
How’d you get your start cooking?
Culinary-wise, I got my first job at 12 years old. Bussing tables and worked my way through there. Real small, easy jobs: pizzas and prep work. It was a very small town, 500 people in the winter and 10,000 in the summer, so I ended up finding a job at a steakhouse and got my chops in full-service dining, before moving up to Montrose, Colorado.
How’d you end up in Las Vegas?
We had a small family and it was taking its toll on our young kids and my wife and I both worked a lot. So we sold both (restaurants) in 2009-10 and said, “Let’s go work for someone else.” We could still work for some great restaurants but not put the same time in.
How about Nacho Daddy?
My wife was working at Nacho Daddy and I loved the restaurant and really believed in this small born and raised Vegas restaurant that was growing and expanding. I loved the experience on the Strip and loved the energy, but missed working for the independent restaurant. You don’t really get the creativity with your own food, and it’s more reproducing what the chef wants. This was a good opportunity to take on the menu that was really creative and had a lot of potential for future growth.
So working with nachos, how’s that?
They’re like Rodney Dangerfield, they don’t get no respect. I want to help be part of that movement and change the way people perceive nachos and being at the first Nacho-focused restaurant, I think we can and are doing that. We’re definitely not just the chips, cheese and beans. Everything is homemade, no canned queso. The beef we use is filet mignon. We’re not skimping, there’s no need to. We have basic nachos with pico de gallo and refried beans, but we also have a take on Thai chicken, with all the flavors of pad thai with shrimp and steak. Again, we’re trying to bring respect to nachos, if we can put filet in nachos, or lobster on nachos, we will. We try to have creative twists. We feel we can do anything with a nacho. Maybe we can be the first Michelin-starred Nacho restaurant. It’s a blank canvas, we could do caviar to Kobe (beef).
How do you come up with the ideas and keep the menu fresh?
We try to stay current with trends, and there’s so many people coming from all over the country that seek us out and speak about how we can do nachos like their regional dish. Next month, we’re doing a pizza nacho. Last month we did Big Fat Greek Nacho, with lamb grown in the Utah mountains and made into a really nice taco meat, on top of pita chips and feta cheese. Some of the specials are hard to execute, but we try to bring things that freshen up what’s going on. A few months ago we did a Nashville Hot Chicken, with fried chicken, pimento mac and cheese and a sauce we called the cluckin’ hot sauce.
Is it hard changing the perception of nachos?
We hope we’re doing it when they’re coming in. It is a fun and whimsical name and probably doesn’t bring the highest expectations, but we try to blow them away and I think customers tend to see that pretty quickly.
Do you make nachos at home?
I don’t make nachos at home very often, since Nacho Daddy is so focused. I like to use my culinary skills to be creative in other ways. Sometimes I miss the old school French techniques. So when I’m home, it’s probably something simple, but with a lot of technique in it to remind myself of those.
What are some tips for homemade nachos?
We have a motto: Never a dry chip. Build a good foundation and build in layers from there on a heavy-duty pan that holds the heat so it doesn’t get cold. If you have a hard cheese, put those on the chips first; that creates a barrier from a topping with moisture. No one likes soggy chips. Then make sure you have good ingredients and be imaginative.