Scott Foster & Chef John Bennett host Ginger Rogers at Chef's Grande Boulevard Restaurant in Oklahoma City (1976).
Scott Foster & Chef John Bennett host Ginger Rogers at Chef’s Grande Boulevard Restaurant in Oklahoma City (1976).

Public relations & marketing communications consultant Scott Foster has enjoyed four professional careers; in the entertainment industry, publishing, the food & hospitality industry and for the past 25 years as a public relations, communications & marketing consultant managing major public policy issues such as Medical Marijuana as well as numerous electoral campaigns.

The Vietnam War ended Scott’s early career promoting major recording artists and after his discharge from the U.S. Air Force, Scott joined with a childhood friend to establish Rad Communications, eventually publishing Property: The International Magazine of Real Estate Investment, the Big-8 Football Magazine, and Karate Magazine. Scott relates, “It really kept me on my toes. Eventually I felt nothing unusual about editing the English translation of a Dutch article on investment trends in Europe, while compiling statistics on the latest Heisman Trophy winner.”

When the publications were sold, Scott, “… took some time off to think about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” Wanting to stay in his home town, he soon found himself promoting and then staging gala fund-raising events for Oklahoma City arts organizations and his next career was launched.

Scott attributes his later success as a restaurateur to his paternal grandmother Hettie Foster, who literally invented the cafeteria. She had earlier established one of the first schools of home economics in the nation at Oklahoma’s Central State normal school and was a close friend of Helen Corbit of Neiman Marcus’ Zodiac Room fame. A very-young Scott learned his table manners from the two old-school food mavens at the Dallas Zodiac Room with Stanley Marcus occasionally joining them for lunch. Scott notes, I didn’t know I should have been nervous. At that early age, I was more excited about the train trip to Dallas and staying at the Adolphus Hotel

Chef John Bennett & Scott Foster at the Hotel Plaza Athenee dining room, New York City (1984)
Chef John Bennett & Scott Foster at the Hotel Plaza Athenee dining room, New York City (1984)

But it was Scott’s later association with mentor and friend, Chef John Bennett, protege’ of Julia Child, James Beard and Jacques Pepin, that provided the final ingredient for Scott’s restaurant success. The duo produced dazzling dining events for La Chaine des Rotisseurs and orchestrated receptions and parties for clients whose guests ranged from a U.S. President to Lee Iacocca and the senior executives of the Ford Motor Company. Larger events included the world premiere party for the 20th Century Fox movie, The Turning Point with 1500 VIP guests, and a black tie buffet for 500 at the Oklahoma City opening for the first American tour of the Russian Women In Art Exhibition. Scott recalls, “The Russian embassy provided a seemingly unlimited supply of five-pound tins of Beluga caviar and real Stolichnaya vodka and it turned into “a raucous good party,” with armed Russian KGB agents running all over the place to keep anyone from defecting.”

And then there were the parties that Scott’s own catering business, Occasions later staged. During the 1970s, money was flowing like water in the oil patch and the super-rich Oklahoma and Texas oil barons all wanted to outdo one another. A new oil or gas well coming in was always a good excuse to throw a BIG party and the Lear Jets whisked VIP guests in from surrounding states to celebrate. One memorable party had Willie Nelson and his band rocking away on the back of a flatbed truck pulled up along-side the pool. Barbecue by the ton, Cuban cigars by the case, fresh seafood flown in by private jet from the Gulf and the East coast and the finest liquors and wines in the world were all routinely secured with absolutely no thought to price.

The dining room in the Oklahoma Governor's mansion set for a state dinner.
The dining room in the Oklahoma Governor’s mansion set for a state dinner.

By then, Occasions needed a larger kitchen and Scott “reluctantly” leased what had been a small, 6-booth 1960s coffee shop in the basement of his high-rise apartment home. The next thing Scott knew, “the carriage trade matrons were sitting on their Blackglama minks on the floor outside waiting to get in.” Occasionally Downstairs!was an immediate success.

A glittering bar and two dining rooms were soon added and Scott found himself the proprietor of “one of the most exciting restaurants to ever hit Oklahoma City,” as one Dallas reviewer gushed. While Scott still maintains, “I never, ever wanted a restaurant,” he also says, “Looking back, while I never worked so hard in my life, I must say that those were personally very rewarding times. I was most fortunate to be in the company of some of these remarkable people. Spending an entire afternoon with James Beard in his New York City home in the Village (now The Beard Foundation) after lunch at his crown jewel restaurant, the original World Trade Center’s Windows On The World, was a particularly memorable experience.”

Seven “very intense” years later, Occasionally Downstairs fell victim to the oil crash of the early 1980s. Oil prices dropped literally in half overnight and the big party ended as suddenly as it had begun. Occasionally Downstairs‘ sophisticated New American Cuisine menu, incorporating many of Scott’s personal recipes, is still remembered fondly by former patrons and its gourmet hamburger, the “Sale Barn Burger” lives on. Hilton International’s Food Research Center had heard about the famed burger and contracted to make the recipe available to their Executive Chefs at every Hilton Hotel in the world.

Scott scheduled his most-recent (2011) trip back home to visit his Oklahoma City friends around a very special invitation from his friend and mentor, Chef John Bennett. Scott said, “No way could I turn down an opportunity to again assist Chef with another grand party. This time, the guest of honor was Dore Greenspan.

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Described as “a culinary guru” by The New York Times, the celebrated author was on another international book-signing tour for her latest, Around My French Table. Her nine previously published award-winning cookbooks include the bestseller, Baking with Julia, the book that accompanied Julia Child’s PBS series, and Desserts by Pierre Herme, which was named Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Chef John Bennet and Julia Child.
Chef John Bennett and Julia Child in Julia’s home kitchen in Cambridge.
Chef John Bennett and James Beard in New York.
Chef John Bennett and James Beard in New York City.

Dore and “Chef” also share a long history with James Beard. Dore had worked for Mr. Beard as his personal assistant and she became the first Executive Director of the Beard Foundation after his death. Scott notes, “As much as the lady knows about extraordinary food and entertaining, Dore was openly flabbergasted by the menu and the sophistication of the gathering of nearly 100 Oklahoma gourmands in Chef’s elegant home.”

As in years past, Chef ran the kitchen and Scott kept everything running smoothly and looking good "out front."
As in years past, Chef ran the kitchen and Scott kept everything running smoothly and looking good “out front.”
Chef and Dore debate how long to bak a stuffed pumpkin and other immediate culinary challenges.
Chef and Dore debate how long to bak a stuffed pumpkin and other immediate culinary challenges.

Scott stayed on with Chef for over a week, preparing for the party and later helping him sort through and arrange Chef Bennett’s 50-year collection of books, letters, menus, clippings and other priceless memorabilia for his own book. Scott says, “Chef John Bennett is the most famous Chef in the world that you never heard of. But trust me, I predict his memoir will make the New York Times book review and will be an immediate best seller. He’s truly bigger than life ala Lucius Beebe — as were his late mentors and close friends, Julia Child and James Beard.”

Scott, Dore Greenspan & Chef John Bennett. Another memorable party ends.
Scott, Dore Greenspan & Chef John Bennett. Another memorable party ends.
Chef's portrait by his friend of over 50 years, Leroy Neiman.
Chef’s portrait by his friend of 50 years, Leroy Neiman.
Leroy Neiman's 90th birthday party. Food by Chef John Bennett of course!
Leroy Neiman’s 90th birthday party in Neiman’s New York studio. Food by Chef John Bennett of course!

Read more about the Neiman 90th HERE

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Portrait of Chef John Bennett by the late Nick Backus, Scott’s client who went on to design for Valentino in his Paris salon. “What times we had!”

 

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