Life in the Finger Lakes recently caught up with Scott Grannis, executive chef at Seneca Harbor Station in Watkins Glen. Scott grew up in New York State, and he brings his vast experience and love for the Finger Lakes Region into the dishes he prepares.
When did you start cooking?
When I was very young, 15. My first job was as a dishwasher at the Bulls Head restaurant in Binghamton. I graduated to prep, became a fan of life in a kitchen, and started acquiring other cooking skills.
I tried other fields of work but the culinary industry kept calling me back. I enrolled in the Broome Tioga BOCES food program and excelled. Since then I’ve been learning by working with other chefs in the industry. I’ve also been willing to take chances and learn from my mistakes.
What is it about the Finger Lakes area that inspires you?
The biggest source of inspiration has to be the availability of farm-to-table food, and then the local wineries and breweries. I also get a lot of pleasure from seeing family and friends enter our restaurant, eat our food, and then leave with smiles. I enjoy hearing their kind words about our work. It’s the finest reward as a chef.
What do you like best about your job?
I came here to Seneca Harbor Station about a year ago, and I love the freedom I have to be creative; to develop daily specials like our salmon and shrimp fresca, beef Burgundy, and Greek stuffed chicken. One of my favorite dishes to present to our patrons is our broiled seafood platter with shrimp, scallops, white fish, and our homemade crab cake.
They tell me they love it!
The establishment maintains an excellent reputation, and I feel blessed to work for the Simiele family.
Early visitors to Watkins Glen traveled by either lake steamer or by rail. Two couples from Italy – Philip and Rose Simiele, and Dominick and Theresa Roccisano – arrived by train in the early 1900s at the Watkins Glen station, today’s Seneca Harbor Station. Two of their children, William Simiele and Julia Roccisano, got married.
Meanwhile, after operating for more than 100 years, the train station was closed and fell into disrepair.
In 1998, William Simiele and his family purchased it, and his son Mark drew up plans to turn the abandoned station into a unique waterfront restaurant. Today, the elevated dining room features 16-foot ceilings and spectacular views of Seneca Lake, as does the large attached deck. In the summer, there’s live music on the beach patio.
Seneca Harbor Station is known for its seafood. Guests rank the clam chowder and seafood bisque “the best we’ve ever had.” The Faroe Island salmon with lobster butter is also a favorite.
Others patrons go there for the pasta, and can choose from four different seafood varieties, plus chicken and stuffed rigatoni. Meat lovers enjoy the Chili Espresso ribeye and the Filet Mignon Oscar, served with asparagus and lobster butter.
Along with the great food, guests also remark about the beautiful lakefront view and exceptional service.