Q&A: Chef Chris Scott and Eugenie Woo of Butterfunk Kitchen
How appearing on Bravo’s Top Chef has impacted their restaurant, their website and more
For over eight years, Chef Chris Scott and his wife Eugenie Woo have worked together as a team in Brooklyn, operating two restaurants, Brooklyn Commune, and their most recent venture, Butterfunk Kitchen. So it's no wonder that when Scott was approached to be on Season 15 of Bravo’s Top Chef, it was a decision that they made and prepared for together. Now that the coveted cooking competition is in full swing, we sat down with both of them to get a glimpse into how the reality show has already changed their business.
Butterfunk Kitchen’s menu is rooted in Southern food traditions, but tell us about the full philosophy behind your restaurant.
Chris: It’s pretty simple: feed people with love. Imagine every day is Thanksgiving. You wake up in a house filled with love, family and friends. Everyone you love in your entire world is right there. That whole feeling is what my wife and I try to create every day.
Eugenie: For both of us it's important that people always feel comfortable. We interact with our guests personally and also through the food which just reinforces everything. Chris is the creative force and I handle how everything comes together. We work in sync like that to make it all translate to our customers.
Chef Chris Scott with his wife and business partner, Eugenie Woo.
What drew you to share your restaurant on a bigger platform like Top Chef?
Chris: I think that our story is unique and just having the opportunity to share it with a bigger crowd is wonderful. It’s more than just coming here and getting a plate of food. It’s about being with the people you love, where food is just kind of the backdrop. Being able share it with the world is important.
Have you been able to see any noticeable effects on your business since the season started airing?
Chris: Since the show started it’s been ridiculously busy every night, to the point where people are waiting almost two hours just for a seat. We seat 28 and are doing close to 110 covers in the course of a night. But it still feels like an old Southern juke joint where people are watching the vibe, having conversations, enjoying a drink and listening to the band while they wait. It’s a really good feel.
Switching our website over to BentoBox was part of how we prepared for the extra exposure that we were going to get.
Opportunities like Top Chef can really put a restaurant in the spotlight. Knowing this, how did you prepare your business for the extra attention?
Eugenie: To be honest, switching our website over to BentoBox was part of how we prepared for the extra exposure that we were going to get. Before, we had a different website and I had some frustrations with it. We wanted to line things up to present our restaurant in the best way. And then, of course, figuring out staffing schedules, pulling together training procedures, that kind of thing. We are still constantly adjusting to this new reality, making changes and trying to keep up in terms of our growth.
Butterfunk Kitchen updated their website to prepare for the extra exposure they've gotten from Top Chef.
What has been the biggest challenge you both have faced as a result of appearing on Top Chef?
Eugenie: I think the biggest challenge for us has been that Chris and I have never been remote operators. We live in the building, and we’re here about 80 hours a week, fully immersed in operations. Butterfunk is a real mom-and-pop establishment, and one of our biggest challenges is trying to remove ourselves from the full-on operational responsibilities so we can deal with the bigger picture.
One of our biggest challenges is trying to remove ourselves from the full-on operational responsibilities so we can deal with the bigger picture.
How has Top Chef affected the way you use social media?
Chris: I’ve always taken care of Butterfunk Kitchen’s Instagram and Facebook, and now our Twitter too. I feel more pressure to come up with relevant posts about what we’re doing here inside the restaurants. I can post about me until the cows come home. But in the end, I don’t want it to be about me. It needs to be about the history, the culture and of course, the food.
Chef Chris Scott competing on this season of Top Chef. Photo courtesy of Bravo.
What has been your major takeaway from being a part of Top Chef so far? What are you bringing out of it as you go through it?
Eugenie: We have also been able to see that there is definitely a platform out there for this type of cuisine to be appreciated on a different level. That’s really exciting to be a part of—helping to bring that to the forefront and being able to share it. It’s not just fried chicken and biscuits, you know?
Chris: And it’s not a gimmick. It’s not red velvet rope and DJs in the corner. It’s real, authentic, Southern cuisine. And it’s personal.