Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Scott Haas is a writer, clinical psychologist, and the author of four books.
The winner of a James Beard award for his on-air broadcasts on NPR's Here and Now, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Detroit and did his doctoral internship at Massachusetts Mental Health Center, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital.
He holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, and works 100% consultatively in Roxbury. In his free time, Scott writes a monthly jazz column for the Bay State Banner. Scott is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but works in Japan three to four times each year.
Tell us a little about how you got started writing?
I started writing about food forever ago, in the mid-1990s, and began by reading Marcella Hazan and practicing each of her recipes from her first two books dozens of times until I could cook them without thinking about amount and type of ingredients.
From there, I was lucky enough to work professionally in Gordon Hamersley’s restaurant for three months on the grill station as a line cook; the idea was to write a backstage look at the bistro book, but then Tony Bourdain’s great book came along and the world certainly didn’t need a lesser work and one far more restrained by the chef.
I worked next at Da Silvano, on 6th & Houston, in West Village, NYC, where the owner, Silvano Marchetto, hired me to write his cookbook and history of his restaurant. Da Silvano was the classic downtown hangout for rock stars and writers, from Rihanna to the Stones, and I was there two years.
Silvano taught me the importance of buying the best ingredients you can afford, and how to cook pasta. Our book was published by Bloomsbury.
My third work experience in restaurants was at Craigie on Main; I was there observing and cooking for a year and a half. The result was a book: “Back of the House: Secrets of a Restaurant,” published by Berkley/Penguin. I learned how to use a pressure cooker there, about floor-kitchen dynamics, and how to cook very fast.
My current book is all about Japan; its day-to-day life, and there is a long chapter on its cuisines. The book is called, “Why Be Happy?” and it is published by Hachette (July, 2020); excerpts have appeared in Forbes and The Boston Globe.
The Japan book’s chapter on food goes into depth about Dogen, the 12th century monk who came up with the 5 flavors/tastes/colors that inform a lot of Japanese food today.
Over the years, I have won a James Beard award for my on-air reporting on food for national public radio; my work appears in Robb Report, T+L, The Boston Globe, Toronto Globe and Mail, Gastronomica, etc.
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Absolutely. The task of a writer is to observe and document. To listen to stories. To see and include contexts in the narratives. Food is one part of the story, as we know, with families, economics, race, gender, etc. being fundamental to narratives. Books like, “The Taste of Empire,” by Lizzie Collingham make this abundantly clear.
Do you ever travel for food?
Yes, 100%. I go to Japan and Switzerland three times a year each—pre- and post- pandemic--and report regularly on the agriculture, restaurants and culture.
Do you enjoy creating budget-friendly meals?
Absolutely. Having worked in restaurants, I'm always thinking price-point, and I source my food. I’ve had food delivered from restaurant purveyors going back more than 20 years: Baldor’s, D’Artagnan, Lobel’s, Fulton Street Fish, Snake River, Oregon Mushrooms.
Do you focus on healthy food?
My wife is a primary care MD in Family Medicine at BMC and South Boston Community Health Center, so to be sure, it’s healthy here. On average: Fish 3-4 nights a week; chicken one-two nights; vegetarian 1-2 nights; beef 2 to 3x a month. Blue Moon: Pork, lamb, duck. I can cook decent Italian, Italian-American, southern US, Japanese, Swiss-German, and about 5-6 Chinese classics. A pound of butter and a dozen eggs last 6-8 weeks here; no cream; and cheese is a rarity.
Do you have any favorite cookbooks?
Any favorite kitchen products?
I use a food processor and a pressure cooker pretty much every night.
Do you have any favorite food writers?
Any favorite food travel destinations?
NYC and Japan.
Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?
Going to a great restaurant makes me think of my limitations as a cook and how I might do better.
What do you eat when on deadline?
Dried fruit, hummus, a good Jamaican patty, pizza.
Anything else you would like to add about being a writer?
It helps enormously not to make yourself part of the story, and instead to create a platform or opportunity for those whose stories have not been told, and to have those stories told in their voices.