One needn't be clairvoyant to have predicted that Jordan Scott's career was pretty much mapped out by the time he was 11. After all, how many children pick their seat in a restaurant to best observe the staff in action?

"I love the way people shift at restaurants, dancing around, not always seen, but always there when you need them," Scott says. "I love the combination between the taste of food and studying how it's prepared."

How many kids bypass Chuck E. Cheese for their special ninth birthday meal in favor of a ritzy lunch in Great Barrington, Massachusetts? How many kids salivate at the thought of perfectly prepared seared duck breast for dinner? It's not exactly a staple on the children's menu.

Two decades later, that eagerness — and sophistication — over everything food, earth to table, has only intensified. It's taken Scott from Keene to the West Coast and back, with stops in Texas, Arizona and a few other states along the way.

Scott's culinary coming-of-age has incorporated personal challenges — including substance misuse, a homeless stint in San Francisco and working there in a homeless shelter — into his soul as a chef, husband and father. Today, he is partner, chef patron and culinary director of Machina Arts: Kitchen and ArtBar in Keene. Scott, Danya Landis and Rebecca Hamilton are founders of the restaurant on Court Street that fuses the arts, food and sustainable living.

Being named a Trendsetter isn't the first millennial honor that Scott has garnered. Machina Arts was a 2020 winner in the Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation for its innovative approach and willingness to hire people who are downtrodden on their luck. Landis, who nominated Scott for a Trendsetter award, says his commitment to the community — especially those in need of help — is genuine and heartfelt.

"He allows people the space to try something new and grow, giving them an open platform to feel like they have a voice and are a part of the team," she wrote in her nominating letter. "He treats each employee like family and somehow balances the hard job of being a boss with being understanding and kind."

Scott says his own experiences have molded his character — from how he treats people to how he treats food and its sustainable resources.

"Our restaurant accepts everyone — criminal histories, tattoos, doesn't matter. We'll give you a chance," Scott says.

Machina Arts is involved in numerous local nonprofit outreach endeavors, such as the Monadnock Farm Share Program, The Community Kitchen and Culinary Journeys, which he co-founded. The latter program helps young adults find funding for higher education in the culinary arts, and today Scott is secretary on its board of directors. His involvement in Rise for Baby and Family in the Monadnock Region is a nod to his own speech issues as a youngster (he didn't talk until he was 2½).

Rachel Eschle, who also nominated Scott for a Trendsetter award, credits him for forging a collaboration with The Community Kitchen and local farms to process and package food for needy area residents under the Monadnock Harvest Bridge program during the pandemic.

Scott and his wife, Jaclyn, a nurse at Cheshire Medical Center, have one daughter, Elara, who will turn two this year, and another child is due in August. His mother, Megan, his grandmother and a great-aunt are also nurses. Caregiving runs in the family. His father, Arthur, lives in Massachusetts and works in an educational program for children with disabilities.

Born in Brattleboro and raised in Keene, Scott says, "I was a goth kid, so I was different. And that meant I got beat up. … I did a lot of drugs in high school, idolized the Beat generation and 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'" he says.

It was the kitchen — any kitchen — that pushed him forward. He started working at Round Table Pizza in Marlborough when he was 13. Scott eschewed a chance to attend Northfield Mount Hermon because it didn't have a culinary arts curriculum. Keene High is noted for its culinary arts program, and longtime teacher Scott Rogers has had a major impact on many students' lives, including Scott's. When Scott was homeless in San Francisco, he called Rogers for advice.

San Francisco and the California Culinary Academy beckoned after high school, and Scott went through its one-year accelerated associates' program while trying to adjust to being far from home. The program helped forge the foundation that would become his culinary calling: "A study in simplicity," is how he describes it on his website. But when it comes to culinary acumen, Scott says being in the kitchen overrides being in the classroom. Much of his education came in restaurant kitchens, be it a refined, well-known Italian restaurant in the North Beach section of San Francisco or as a line cook in a small-town tavern.

In San Francisco, Scott cooked at Joe DiMaggio's Italian Chophouse in the heart of North Beach, one of the city's distinguished dining destinations. Meanwhile, he volunteered at a homeless shelter in the adjacent and rundown Tenderloin district. This came after he himself had moved out of his academy dorm and found himself homeless for a period.

He was still only 19 when he moved to Austin, Texas, eager to learn and travel in a restaurant chain.

"[Opening restaurants] became part of my job profile because they knew I'd go. I just always said yes to whatever opportunity arose. Sometimes it meant moving into apartments, sight unseen, where all they had was milk crates and chairs," Scott says.

He was still based in Austin when the Great Recession hit in 2008, taking a toll on the restaurant industry and prompting a move back to New England in 2009. Home turned out to be the Gill Tavern in western Massachusetts, where he signed up as a line cook. Six months later, the head chef departed to open his own restaurant, and Scott was asked to be head chef. He was only 22.

Over the next several years, "I threw myself into it. I'd eat, sleep and breathe the Gill Tavern," Scott says.

As he matured through his 20s, so did his culinary style. The tavern's owner promoted sustainable living, local ingredients became integral in his cooking, and he learned how to garden himself. But as time ticked on, he longed for home.

SupremeAudio.com of Marlborough owner Bill Heyman and his wife, Peggy, who died in October, were regulars at the tavern, and they suggested Scott for a head chef opening at Nicola's in Keene. Scott also became involved with Taqueria Odelay on the corner of Gilbo Avenue and Main Street, and the roots to his home city deepened.

Meanwhile, his friendships with Machina Arts restaurant co-founders Landis and Hamilton, who is co-CEO of Badger, took root. Landis' husband, Walker, built most of the custom furniture at Machina Arts and is behind many of its design features. Hamilton's husband, Chris, is involved in design, videography, photography and general marketing at Machina Arts and is a DJ as well.

Now with a young family, Scott doesn't plan on moving out of the Monadnock Region anytime soon. He chuckles and says he has a "million hobbies, but they're half-cocked and not figured out yet." He embraces the "third place concept," in which people "have a home and job but need a third place, a place for people to come together wherever there is community."

He gardens, savors the old-time tools he inherited from his grandfather and built a workshop in his garage.

"I just like it here — gardening and woodworking give me hobbies I want to stay with and learn more about. And working with the people [at Machina Arts] couldn't be better."

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