Food Network personality and restauranteur Scott Conant could have been a plumber. It’s fortunate for his many television and restaurant fans that the stylish and charismatic chef didn’t get into the plumbing program at the vocational high school he attended in Connecticut. Instead he decided to study culinary arts and found his passion.
Conant attended the reputable Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York, studied in Europe and worked at several renowned Italian restaurants in New York City. In 2002, he opened L’Impero to critical acclaim, receiving three stars from The New York Times and was named Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation.
Two years later, in 2004 Conant would be named one of America’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine. He then opened Alto, an Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan, followed by Scarpetta, which was named one of 2008’s Best New Restaurants by Esquire Magazine. He has also made his appearance on several Food Network shows, as well as “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.”
“I cook what I’m comfortable with, food that has soul and big flavors in a thoughtful way.”
Whether bringing in sustainably-sourced Italian prosciutto or serving up freshly-made pizza for our dinner guests, Italian food has made its way to our tables at ICONIC LIFE. Perhaps we are a bit biased when it comes to anything Italian (including architecture), but Scott Conant has served us some of our favorite Italian dishes at his legendary eateries that we would surely travel far for.
He describes his culinary style as deliberate cooking; a combination of rustic and refined, with influences from different regions of Italy. Some of his signature dishes that you will find at his restaurants include pasta Pomodoro and creamy polenta with mushrooms and bacon. “I cook what I’m comfortable with, food that has soul and big flavors in a thoughtful way,” he said.
Conant currently owns two restaurants, including Mora Italian, a pointedly stylish, contemporary eatery in Phoenix, Arizona serving handmade pasta including lobster gnudi and black campanelle with clams, and the classic wood-fired pizza. His newest restaurant is Cellaio, located in the Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York, is an Italian-inspired steakhouse offering fresh pasta, seafood and a variety of aged steaks, including the Bistecca Fiorentina, a porterhouse for two.
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I’m fortunate to be a part of today’s growing food culture with the popularity of chefs and Food Network. It’s a big part of my world. I love what I do, and I’m blessed to do it.”
In addition to owning two thriving restaurants, Conant recently launched Sprezza, a line of spreads, olives and sauces including artichoke hearts, pesto and his signature Pomodoro sauce.
Scott Conant’s busy schedule is non-stop as he is working on a new cookbook, and is planning to open several new restaurants. In addition to being recognized on Food Network’s “Chopped,” he is hosting a new season of “Chopped Sweets,” and is also a regular on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.”
He has been a part of the beloved cooking competition show since it started in 2009 and continues to be a fan favorite, known for his insightful critiques and disdain for raw red onions. “Being on ‘Chopped’ is a great opportunity to identify up and coming talent, and provide feedback to make them better,” Conant said.
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For all of his success, Conant remains humble and grateful. “I’ve been in this industry for more than 30 years, and I’m fortunate be a part of today’s growing food culture with the popularity of chefs and Food Network. It’s a big part of my world. I love what I do, and I’m blessed to do it,” he said.
Nearly three years ago, Scott Conant moved from New York City to Arizona to open the restaurant Mora Italian. Although he travels 60 percent of the time, he and his family, which includes two young daughters, have adjusted well to living in the desert. “Living in Arizona is a beautiful lifestyle. I feel relaxed like I’m on vacation. Arizona has a great pool of culinary talent, and a very supportive culinary community,” he said.
Mora Italian, Phoenix
Although he has found wild success as an entrepreneur, chef, television personality and author, Conant is first and foremost a family man. “The thing I enjoy the most is cooking breakfast for my family,” he said. “My kids aren’t going to be young forever and my time with them is very precious. Everything I do is for my family.”
SCOTT CONANT’S PICI WITH SHRIMP RAGU AND ROSEMARY BREADCRUMBS
2 onions, julienned
1 head garlic
1 head fennel, chopped
5 lbs shrimp shells and heads
8 oz canned tomatoes, milled
1/2 bunch thyme
1/2 bunch oregano
In a large stock pot, sweat the onions, garlic, and fennel, and then add the shrimp shells. Slowly roast the heads in the pot. As they turn color, break the bodies up.
Continue to roast the heads, and then add the tomatoes. Cook slowly for about 10 minutes.
Cover with water, add the herbs, and cook for 1 hour. Buzz with hand-held blender and strain.
1 kg 00 flour
1 tbs salt
24 oz tepid water
1 tbs olive oil
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the water and oil. Mix for 10 minutes.
Take the dough out, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest for a few minutes.
Roll out 1/4-inch and then cut into 1/8-inch strands. Roll out with your hands, starting from the middle. Place the strands on a floured sheet tray and keep cool until needed.
1 cup Japanese breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig thyme
1/2 tbs rosemary, picked and chopped
Salt to taste
Olive oil as needed
1 tsp chili flake
1 tbs parsley, minced
Dry toast the breadcrumbs with the garlic and thyme until golden brown. Remove garlic and thyme. Add rosemary, salt, and olive oil and chili flake to taste. Finish with parsley once cool and reserve.
135 g pici pasta
5 oz shrimp stock
2 oz pomodoro sauce (use Sprezza Pomodoro Sauce or store-bought)
Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
Chili flake as needed
7 shrimp, cut
1 tsp butter
Sliced parsley as needed
Rosemary breadcrumbs as needed
Salt to taste
Cook pasta in boiling salted water until cooked 80% of the way.
Add the stock, pomodoro sauce, and 3 ounces of pasta water to a sauté pan. Add the pasta and the shrimp. Add a little oil and the chili flake.
Toss pasta until 90% of the liquid is evaporated and starting to glaze. Add the butter — off the heat — at the end, tossing to emulsify. Finish with parsley and taste for salt.
Plate and top with breadcrumbs.