Grilled In a Minute: Scott Conant
Julie Mautner / March 2nd, 2012
Born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut, Scott Conant began taking cooking classes at age 11 and graduated from the CIA in 1992. After 15 years in top New York restaurants including San Domenico, Il Toscanaccio, L’Impero and Alto, he opened Scarpetta, the first restaurant that was “100% my own creation,” in May, 2008. A glowing three-star review from The New York Times and inclusion in Esquire’s Best New Restaurant list further cemented his reputation as one of the country’s preeminent Italian chefs. Later that year, Conant opened Scarpetta at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Resort (four stars, Miami Herald) followed by Scarpetta Toronto (June, 2010) and Scarpetta Beverly Hills (October, 2010). A fifth location—plus D.O.C.G Enoteca, a new wine bar—opened in Las Vegas in early 2011. Conant has appeared on The Today Show, MARTHA, Top Chef, and Chopped, and published two cookbooks: New Italian Cooking and Bold Italian. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Meltem.
Do you remember the moment when you decided you wanted to be a chef?
I was 15 years old and working in the kitchen of a restaurant in Waterbury, Connecticut. I loved the camaraderie and group dynamic, and knew I had found my place. I knew I had to have a career in the kitchen.
Who would you ask to cook your last meal and why?
My wife. She's a great cook and if it was my last meal, I'd want to share it with her, of course.
What do you eat when no one is watching?
Skippy Reduced-Fat Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter, right out of the jar!
What makes you a great restaurateur?
When it comes to our guests, my intention is always to be thoughtful. It's important to anticipate their needs and expectations. Of all the restaurants where they can dine, they choose to come to ours. Thoughtfulness goes a long way and I think that’s what separates the good from the great.
Where did you have your last truly great restaurant meal?
I went to The French Laundry for the first time during Flavor! Napa Valley Wine and Food Festival this year and it’s hard to describe how fantastic the experience was. There were so many great courses and it was a very inspiring dinner. Equally inspiring at the other end of the spectrum, I had a great meal at The Saint Austere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I love the fun, whimsical dishes that are still thoughtful and exciting.
What do you ask your mother to cook when you visit?
I always ask her to cook sausage and peppers with these local Portuguese rolls.
For an eating trip, where in the world would you go right now?
I’d definitely go to Barcelona and I’d have José Andrés show me around because…why wouldn’t you?
What's the one cookbook you use most often?
Anna Gosetti della Salda’s Le Ricette Regionali Italiane.
If not this, then what?
There is no backup plan and there never was. It’s everything I’ve always done and everything I’ve always wanted to do.