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Scott McGehee Makes Culinary Concepts Part of Yellow Rocket’s Science

3 min read
Scott McGehee was born in Fayetteville and raised in Little Rock. He attended the University of Arkansas and graduated with honors from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He then went to work as a line chef at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley.

In 1999, he returned to Little Rock and opened Boulevard Bread Co. Two more locations opened in 2004 and 2006. In 2007, he opened ZaZa Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. in Little Rock, followed by the other Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurants: ZaZa Conway, Big Orange, Local Lime, Lost 40 Brewing and Heights Taco & Tamale.

McGehee said he was inspired to be a cook by his great-grandmother, Ruby Thomas of Red Apple Inn, and father, Frank McGehee of Blue Mesa Grill and Juanita’s.

What does the name Yellow Rocket signify?

Yellow Rocket was one of the first video arcades opened in Arkansas by Jim Porter in the late 1970s-early 1980s. I was in my early teens, and it was where I had endless fun. (Think “Stranger Things” era: Dungeons & Dragons, video games, leaving the house on our bicycles just after breakfast and not returning home until the streetlights came on at night.) It was a magical time in my life that conjures positive nostalgia and pure joy. It’s the same kind of joy I aspire to bring to every guest who steps foot into a Yellow Rocket restaurant.

Are there any new restaurant concepts on the horizon?

There are two new concepts on my “bucket list.” But we are currently loving the challenge of making every single location and recipe better than it’s ever been.

Would you consider franchising?

Franchising is just not in our DNA. We are a hyper-creative and artistic group, and that constant change is what drives us. Inventing something new, or reinventing something old, is absolutely in our wheelhouse.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known starting out?

I was taught this from a young age — but you can never hear the advice enough — honesty, positivity, kindness and sobriety are the keys to life and long-term happiness (at least for me). I preach this to every single person-work family I’m lucky enough to get to know. This advice has helped my work family more than any other, I think. I love seeing people on a negative path get on a positive one and then to watch them thrive. Nothing is more rewarding.

What is your signature dish?

Such a difficult question! I think I’d answer it differently every day of the year. Currently, I’m loving making really perfect eclairs and fresh fried cannoli shells filled to perfection. I love just handmade tortillas with perfectly smoked short rib and house-fermented hot sauce lately and freshly made pasta 100 different ways. I can’t decide today!

What is your guilty pleasure snack?

My guilty pleasure is ice cream and cookies. If they exist near me at 10 p.m., it’s on. I ask my family to hide those things when I need to chill on the weight gain.

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