The Cyclist Chef: A Look Inside Spencer's Pantry

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 9 years old.

scott spencer
Chef Scott Spencer, owner of Spencer's Pantry. Photo by Jenny Oh.

If you know any cyclists, chances are they're "food-passionate" (This sounds less pejorative than food-obsessed.) They range from serious athletes who religiously count calories and eat specific nutrients to stay fit for races, or those like me: folks who pedal hundreds of miles so we can eat delicious meals guilt-free.

Chef Scott Spencer is a fellow cycling-food enthusiast who I met through the Bay Area cycling community. To borrow some racing classification terms from the world of cycling, Scott is a cooking "Pro," whereas I'm merely a mid-range "Category 3." As the owner of Oakland-based Spencer's Pantry, he'll prepare an exquisite 6-course meal for you and your guests using fresh, local seasonal ingredients -- often from his garden.

short rib
48-hour short rib, 12-hour pork belly, brown butter potatoes, baby carrots, onions and beurre rouge. Photo by Scott Spencer.

Preserved meyer lemon ricotta stuffed squash blossom
Preserved Meyer lemon ricotta-stuffed squash blossom, rock shrimp, basil and fresh pea puree. Photo by Scott Spencer.


Diver scallop
Diver scallop, caviar lentils, farro, uni cream and tarragon. Photo by Scott Spencer.

His culinary interests began over ten years ago while cooking on a casual basis for friends. Scott's hobby soon evolved into the pursuit of a professional culinary career, and he attended the California Culinary Academy in 2002. Upon graduating, Scott held diverse group of jobs: he learned about desserts at Scharffen Berger, worked the wood oven at B Restaurant and oversaw the raw bar at the now-defunct Pearl Oyster Bar & Restaurant in Oakland.

Then he landed at Boulevard in San Francisco, "a restaurant that I had really dreamed about working in since I started cooking. But I was still on the line, busting my butt every night and I hit a spot in my life that made me question where I was going to be when I was 30."

"My friend was working for and approached me about an article. He knew I did some catering on the side to supplement my cook's income. I just said, 'Write that I will come over and cook a meal like I do for my friends and family. Very intimate, more along the lines of having a dinner party with a friend who is a chef.' I got 63 emails that morning, left Boulevard and was off to the races. It's been nothing but great for the last 2 years."

Scott says there are many benefits to owning his own business. "I can close up shop and travel when I would like. I make a lot more money than I ever have. I don't have any employees, so I have total quality control. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my cooking. The only con has been the time involved doing it all myself. I ride my bicycle around the Bay Area to gather ingredients, so the prep time turns into a 14-18 hour workday before a dinner."

If you'd like to have Scott pedal over and cook for you in your home, visit his blog and website to learn more about Spencer's Pantry. You can also check out his reviews on Yelp and find him on Facebook and Flickr.

heirloom tomato soup
Heirloom tomato gazpacho. Photo by Scott Spencer.

As it's prime tomato season, here's one of Scott's stellar recipes for a vegan Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho. It's also gluten-free as it eschews the usual addition of bread.

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Makes 6 Cups

1 ½ lbs. very ripe heirloom tomatoes cored and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion thinly sliced
1 English cucumber peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Add olive oil, onion and cayenne to a large pot, stir and set to low heat. Cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and add in small batches to a blender. Blend on high until smooth and run through a fine mesh strainer (optional).

If needed, season with salt, cayenne and rice vinegar. You are looking for the warmth of the cayenne, the flavor of tomato and the zing of a little vinegar. The soup should be chilled and served cold.