Chefs for Scher: Honoring A Friend
Last December, the culinary community said goodbye to one of their own. Steve Scher was a guy’s guy and a ladies’ man. He had it all: looks, charm, humor, brains, and business acumen. But mostly, Steve was a friend, a generous and thoughtful friend. Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects to Steve last December. The Riverside Memorial Chapel had to open up several auxiliary rooms to accommodate everyone from celebrity chefs to celebrity talk show hosts to camp and college pals. It was heartbreaking.
Steve’s death had been a shock. Just days before, Steve gathered close friends and family to help him celebrate his fiftieth birthday. It was a fun-filled tribute roasting the guy who had just parted ways with bachelorhood in April and was now a brand new dad. It was a night to remember. Steve left the party, went home to sleep and never woke up again.
At the age of 35, Steve joined the food world as a restaurateur when left a law practice to open his first New York restaurant, Main Street, on the Upper West Side. It would be the first in a long list of successful ventures: Rain, Calle Ocho, BLT Prime, BLT Steak DC, Django, Union Pacific, and BarBao. Steve helped launch many chefs’ careers like Rocco DiSpirito, Zak Pelaccio, and Josh DeChellis.
On Monday, July 13th, many luminaries from the culinary industry are gathering to honor Steve with a benefit. The date was picked specifically since it will be the first birthday of his son, Hudson. Steve’s longtime business partner, Paul Zweben, said the motivation was to keep Steve’s spirit alive by establishing an award with the James Beard Foundation. All proceeds will go to the Steven Scher Memorial Scholarship for Aspiring Restaurateurs, which will award individuals interested in the culinary field, who possess an entrepreneurial spirit, have a clear vision of their restaurant concept, and the passion to see it through. Everyone from Rocco DiSpirito to Bobby Flay to Jean-Georges Vongerichten will participate in the event, just to name a few.
Paul Zweben said to me that Steve was always one degree of separation from everyone, not the proverbial six. Having known Steve for 14 years, I concur. He was a charismatic leader in the restaurant community, who, from the first time you met him, had a way of making you feel like you’d known him your whole life. As Paul and I chatted about Steve yesterday, he mentioned that Steve always talked about his talent for golf and ability to play a fierce game of poker. Although, Paul said, he has yet to substantiate that with his buddies. Perhaps, some things are better left unconfirmed.