Kitchen Inquisition: Scott Conant

The cuisine (and television) natural tells all about his restaurant and, well, food

Acclaimed New York City Chef Scott Conant has received nothing but rave reviews from notable sources such as New York Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, Esquire, and New York Times. So when the famed Italian chef decided to open Scarpetta in the Fontainebleau Miami in 2008, it was only expected that the Miami Herald would give it a shining four-star review. Miami foodies will never be bored, as Conant serves seasonally inspired Italian fare with only the freshest of ingredients, a policy Conant cooks by.  Aren't we glad he paid attention to his grandmother's cooking as a child?

I'm sure all the dishes on each of your menus are like your children, but if you had to choose only one dish from the menu, which ones are you most proud of?
Most of my dishes are seasonal, but one that resonates with customers right now is Black Tagliolini with lobster, basil breadcrumbs and tomato. The house made pasta dough is made with the squid ink, which gives it its black color, and is tossed in a light lobster broth and basil.

Most popular item on the menu?
Spaghetti in tomato and basil. It's pretty ironic because it's so simple, but there's a lot of integrity involved; every flavor is singular, yet harmonious at the same time.
How would you describe Miami's dining scene?
It feels like it's booming and a lot of restaurants are coming in. It's in constant motion and evolving.
The secret to cooking perfect pasta?
Understanding the product. But when it comes to dry pasta, always read the box and don't overcook it, and for some reason people don't like to salt the pasta, but please do!

What's your personal policy when creating and cooking dishes?
The intention is always to use great, freshly made products, because the better the products used, the better the finishing product. This is the idea of Italian food in general, and it speaks from what people expect of Italian dining; that's why I named it Scarpetta. My dishes are meant to be enjoyed in an atmosphere where there's that sense of fun, serious, but not taking itself too seriously. It's not just the food and ambiance, but the people you're having fun and enjoying it with.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
I was 15 years old and I was going into the trade school for culinary arts, and started to take a culinary class, and turned out really loving it. I ended up taking more culinary classes and thinking, you know, I may be on to something here.
The 5 ingredients every home kitchen should have?
For Mediterranean style, definitely olive oil. I always love finishing salts, like tea salts. Definitely some kind of onion, shallot, chives.
The 5 utensils every home kitchen should have?
A really sharp knife and a heavy cutting board so that it doesn't move around. A good oversized tablespoon, a good paring knife, a good pot-holder.
Your fondest food-related memory?
Watching my grandma making pasta.
First dish you learned to make?

I was 11 years old when I took my first course in a community center, just a cooking class for kids -- I learned to make apple pie.

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