Chef Scott Conant ’92, Chopped Judge’s Culinary Journey

Photo of CIA alum, Chef Scott Conant

“Learn to talk about food, taste, and your experience. The future is in front of you and, if you’re like me, you’ll never want to take your apron off.”

CIA Alumni Bio

Known as the Maestro of Pasta, Scott Conant’s fresh varieties of pasta are mainstays on his menus, and he continues to elevate the simple mixture of flour, salt, and egg. Conant attributes his classic Spaghetti Pomodoro’s massive popularity to its classic simplicity. “It always goes back to the old da Vinci quote: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate luxury,’” he says.

Chef, Restaurateur, Author, TV Personality

Chef Conant is a chef, restaurateur, author, and television personality. He appeared as a judge on three seasons of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, is a regular judge on Chopped, and is the host of Best Baker in America, both on the Food Network. Chef Conant has also appeared on Beat Bobby Flay, Cook Vs Cons, and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.

Chef Conant’s restaurants include: Mora Italian in Phoenix, AZ; Masso Osteria at Red Rock Resorts in Las Vegas, NV; and Cellaio Steak at Resorts World Catskill in Monticello, NY. He is the author of three cookbooks: Scott Conant’s New Italian Cooking, Bold Italian, and The Scarpetta Cookbook.

Not Just Cooking

In 2018, Chef Conant partnered with Tuscany’s famed Sogno Toscano to debut his Sprezza line of cooking and pantry essentials. He recently launched SC Wines. Harvested, bottled, and imported from the finest winemaking regions in Italy, this trio of wines honors family tradition, paying homage to Chef Conant’s daughters – Ayla and Karye – as well as his wife and grandfather, Lupo. “My grandfather made wine, and growing up there was always a bottle at the table,” explains Chef Conant. “I wanted my first collection to celebrate the idea of family coming together, which is why two of the bottles are named for my daughters.” The wines include the 2015 Ayla Pinot Grigio; the 2016 Karya Super Tuscan; and the 2015 Sprezza Barolo.

Photo of CIA culinary arts alum, Scott Conant
“Get a mentor and ask questions. Every moment is an opportunity.”

Plumbing Was an Option

Originally from Waterbury, CT, Chef Conant took cooking classes at the local community college at the young age of 11. He attended W.F. Kaynor Technical High School with the intention of taking courses in plumbing, however the class was full. “Culinary Arts was my second choice,” says Chef Conant. He attended The Culinary Institute of America and interned at San Domenico in New York City. After graduation, Chef Conant spent a year in Munich, Germany studying pastry arts at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof.

Returning to New York City, Cesare Casella chose Chef Conant to be the chef de cuisine at Il Toscanaccio. “I learned a great deal about Italian food from Chef Casella, and owner Pino Luongo taught me how to run a restaurant,” he says. Chef then moved on to run the kitchens of Barolo and Chianti, and became the executive chef at City Eatery, earning great reviews for all.

Conant officially put his name on the map when he opened the L’Impero in 2002. It garnered a three-star review from The New York Times and the title of Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Restaurant Design from the James Beard Foundation. He went on to open Alto and, in 2008, opened Scarpetta. The restaurant received a positive three-star review from The New York Times and New York Magazine and Esquire magazine named Scarpetta one of the Best New Restaurants in America.

Culinary Inspiration

For Chef Conant, the culinary profession is all about continually educating yourself, a lesson he learned during his time at the CIA. “It’s nice to have fun in school but apply yourself. Get a mentor and ask questions,” he says. “Every moment is an opportunity. Learn to understand negotiating tactics, contracts, and the business side of things, and work hard to articulate a thought well. Learn to talk about food, taste, and your experience. The future is in front of you and, if you’re like me, you’ll never want to take your apron off.”

Chef Scott Conant majored in culinary arts while attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. As chef, restaurateur, author, and TV personality, his restaurant endeavors are in Arizona, Nevada, and New York. Learn more about CIA culinary arts degrees online >