Chef Scott Conant talks Italian, Arizona and home cooking
Famous chef Scott Conant is known to Food Network fans around the world for his longtime judge appearances on the popular show “Chopped”, as well as for his host role on “Chopped Sweets” and his recurring role on “Beat Bobby Flay “.
A graduate of the renowned Culinary Institute of America, Conant left his mark in the food world in 2002 when he opened the much-loved L’Impero in New York City, which received a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2003. He followed that success with the openings of Alto and Scarpetta, both also in Manhattan.
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In 2016, the acclaimed restaurateur, in need of a break from the stress of life in New York City, moved to Scottsdale, and a year later he opened Mora Italian, a modern take on a neighborhood osteria, in Midtown Phoenix. In 2020, Conant expanded his empire to Arizona with The Americano, an Italian-inspired steakhouse, in Scottsdale. Both restaurants are known for their fresh ingredients, luxurious versions of international comfort food, and creative wine and cocktail programs.
Now you can create some of Conant’s favorite dishes in your own home. The chef recently published his fourth cookbook, “Peace, Love and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef’s Home Kitchen” (Harry N. Abrams), and AZ Big Media had the chance to speak with him about this project. very personal, as well as his new life in Arizona.
AZ Big Media: Tell us about your new cookbook and why you care so much about it.
Scott Conant: I wanted to put on paper some of the recipes that I have cooked over these years in different cities and countries and show how I create them at home for my family. The book is a combination of this personal snapshot of my culinary life as well as my 35-year history as a chef. This is also my fourth cookbook. The latter talked a lot about home cooking, but the point is, I didn’t cook much at home because I was still working. This time I tested all the recipes at home – they are dishes I cook for my wife, kids and friends. Plus, with the pandemic there seem to be a lot of people with a new interest in food and cooking, so that made sense for the time being.
AZ Big Media: What kinds of recipes can you find inside?
Conant: I included dishes from my first job, things from my neighbor who was like a grandmother to me and even family recipes, but that’s more how I interpret them as a chef. . My wife is from Turkey so I have a Turkish section in the book as well as some dishes that I cook especially for my daughters. There’s a chapter devoted to pantry staples – my toppings, condiments and things like that. And then there are special dishes: my mother’s Sunday sauce; a piece of clam chowder; caramelized onion risotto with braised ribs on top. One of my favorites is a roast pork inspired by a Puerto Rican pernil. I made this for the Mora team, and it was delicious. I know I shouldn’t say how much I love my own food, but this dish is spectacular and I was so happy to share it with everyone.
AZ Big Media: Has life in Arizona influenced your cuisine?
Conant: I feel like he has a bit of it, especially in the warmer months. I just tend to cook a lot lighter now. The bigger dishes you’d get in the Northeast, for example, just don’t work the same here. But the most important thing for me is that Arizona is my home, and I feel like we are all inspired by our homes.
AZ Big Media: Do you think Phoenix can become known as a place to go for Italian food?
Conant: Phoenix is a big city, and there’s plenty of room in the pond, so to speak, for all types of food. There are a lot more Italians from Italy in Arizona than you might think, and there are some great Italian restaurants here. My favorite Italian restaurant in the whole country is Andreoli Italian Grocer in Scottsdale.
AZ Big Media: What are some of your favorite things about Arizona?
Conant: I love the weather here, especially now with the changing seasons. Just breathing the air is wonderful. I also love the great outdoors, driving and having the mountains right there. I also like to go to some of the lakes around Scottsdale. There is so much to love and appreciate. I feel like I can spread my wings a little more than when I was in New York.
AZ Big Media: What’s on your Arizona to-do list?
Conant: I shouldn’t admit it, but I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon yet.
Conant’s cookbook, “Peace, Love and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef’s Home Kitchen,” is available at all major bookstores and restaurants, Mora Italian in Phoenix and The Americano in Scottsdale. $ 35