Mon | Dec 6, 2021

Remembering Stephanie Scott — The Restaurant Week innovator

Published:Sunday | November 7, 2021 | 12:07 AMDebra Edwards - Assistant Online and Lifestyle Editor
Stephanie Scott
Restaurant Week conceptualiser Stephanie Scott with dancehall artiste Bounty Killer.
Christopher Barnes (left), chief operating officer at the RJRGLEANER Communications Group with Stephanie Scott at a Restaurant Week event.
Chef Jacqui Tyson with Stephanie Scott.
Two greats, one picture. Stephanie Scott relentlessly supported the restaurant industry of Jamaica. Here she is seen with the late chef Colin Hylton of Guilt Trip.
Stephanie Scott with sons Sean (left) and Nicholas.

Personality, kindness, and innovation are words that come to mind when thinking of Stephanie Scott, the lifestyle doyenne and Restaurant Week (RW) ideator who passed away due to a vehicular accident in February 2021.

Before pivoting became a popular term, à la the pandemic, the effervescent Scott was a Montessori teacher for 29 years prior to reinventing herself at the age of 50 with the start of her business, SSCO Event Management, and with the conceptualisation of RW, the notable week in November for foodie adventure, sponsored by The Gleaner since its inception in 2005.

A natural at socialising, the raspy-voiced Scott was a kaftan wearing, wine-loving, nails always done, detail-oriented creative who left an indelible mark on the local event and culinary scene by being herself, thinking outside of the box, and executing in style.

“Restaurant Week was her true baby, and her reimagining and recreating her life’s journey was not only what is seen from the outside – a great time of people eating out. Her birthing of Restaurant Week meant restaurants succeeded, chefs were given opportunities, more bartenders, servers, maître d’s, and others were trained. The entire restaurant industry was affected by this one lady who poured her heart and soul into creating this experience for over 15 years. Jamaica was impacted by her,” says friend and managing director of DRT Communications Danielle Terrelonge.

A philanthropist to the core, she strove to make all associated with RW feel like family while working for the greater good of Jamaica’s gastronomic landscape. “She was passionate about making dining accessible, supporting the restaurant industry, and promoting Jamaican cuisine. She was a bona fide female Jamaican entrepreneur and businesswoman. She single-handedly built a brand and a business and executed her craft with legendary high standards and attention to detail for over a decade. In the process, she brought joy to tens of thousands of people,” said her eldest son, Nicholas Scott, managing director of Eppley Limited. “She was also committed to giving back. She insisted that each year, Restaurant Week included a social outreach and philanthropic project. She sponsored scholarships and rolled up her sleeves to help the less fortunate. To my mother, civic responsibility was a lesson like any other to be passed down to each generation.”

Christopher Barnes, chief operating officer at the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, often found himself in awe of Scott’s passion, drive, and work ethic while having the opportunity to work with her on RW. “Difficult to find are people who are more wedded to their projects and unwavering in their pursuit of innovation and perfection than Stephanie Scott was. It was always refreshing to have the kick-off meeting for the latest campaign of Restaurant Week, where with a twinkle in her eyes, reflective of the energy and passion bristling inside, Stephanie would introduce the next crazy idea for a perfect launch. Unwise would be the person in that meeting who would challenge her ideas as not achievable. As far out as any idea she would bring, the execution would always far surpass the expectations of the team and our clients,” shared Barnes. “That was the wow factor of what Stephanie did that kept Restaurant Week as a not-to-miss calendar event. It is true that Restaurant Week will never be the same without Stephanie. We can only hope that those she inspired strive to keep alive the excellent brand, and importantly, the much-needed concept of economic stimulation through gastronomy she and The Gleaner delivered for 15 years.”

Before the numerous accolades, Scott’s most important roles included daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend. She was reliable and supportive of all she encountered and revelled in every opportunity to celebrate life to the fullest.

“Being on the road together every year for some 12 years for Restaurant Week, we formed a unique bond,” says Debra Taylor-Smith, luxury portfolio manager of Select Brands Limited. “We were roomies, besties, travel partners here and abroad, and were each other’s sounding board. I became a part of her family, and she a part of mine. Family was everything to her. Her sons (Nicholas and Sean), daughters-in-law (Kaili and Martine), and grandchildren (Elliott, Lennon, and Stella) were her pride and joy. Those she loved knew, and she had the ability to make each of us in her tribe feel like the only one in her tribe. Her capacity to love was her superpower.”

In a joint statement, Scott’s siblings, Liz Stack, Debbi Gordon, and Larry Thompson, shared, “As a sister, Stephanie was loving and kind, and we always knew we could count on her. Because she had such a big and vibrant personality, we feel her loss in every aspect of our lives. As the oldest, she was always taking care of each of us in our own way, providing comfort, support, perspective, and encouragement whenever we needed it. We miss her laugh, her generosity, her take-charge personality, and her amazing ability to plan and execute a fabulous party at the drop of a hat. We know that wherever she is, she is having a glass of Chardonnay and dancing. We love and miss her dearly.”

Lyndsey McDonnough of Market Me credits Scott for believing in her and being her first client. In a tribute to the maven, McDonnough showed appreciation by saying, “Thank you for opening your home to me. Thank you for opening several bottles of wine for me, and lastly, thank you for opening your heart to me.”

Her sense of humour, distinct laugh, dance skills, and signature hair flip won’t be easily forgotten, and as we settle into November, the month that housed Restaurant Week, the void of her presence is evident. Yet, Scott’s influence on the Jamaican restaurant industry and respect for her crafty brilliance will live on through the many lives she touched.

“At this time of year especially, we remember her larger-than-life personality, Restaurant Week, and her other accomplishments. I hope all of us also remember the values she taught us, including the importance of family, friendship, kindness, and the power of education, hard work, and unbounded curiosity,” concluded Nicholas Scott.